We all know the blessings of Shabbat on a weekly basis. “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” [Genesis 2:3] And in Exodus 20:8: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” In the Ten Commandments, the term holy is applied to one word only, the Sabbath.
We were taught and inspired by Heschel that the meaning of Shabbat is to celebrate time rather than space, to create for ourselves an “architecture of time.” Why not expand the concept of a day of rest to embrace our week of study each summer at the Hartman Institute? The Hartman Institute is a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world.
One Week. A Week Apart. One week out of 52 weeks in the year. A week of separation from what passes as our normal hectic routine. A week of spiritual refreshment, of connection with ourselves, of regaining perspective, of re-encountering our faith, of recapturing pride in who we are. Our own Noam Zion has given us A Day Apart, Shabbat at Home, a book of ever refreshing guidance, renewal and joyous celebration. We can experience the sweetness of our own special Week Apart during the summer, as it beckons us with hope, promise, community, and a blessed opportunity which is there for us to accept, if only we have the vision to do so.
“Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it.” [Genesis 28:16]. What a blessing to be able to create, during a week of study in Jerusalem, the type of Shabbat experience that Heschel described as “an architecture of holiness.” After a week of introspection and study in Jerusalem, we don’t return home the same person. We return changed, deeper, for the better, more centered, the compass of our soul more finely calibrated. Just as the Sabbath is welcomed with the lighting of candles, the sharing of wine and bread, so it is concluded by drinking wine, smelling sweet spices and extinguishing a burning braided candle. The havdalah candle we light at the end of Shabbat is made of intertwined candles with beautiful colors; so too is our week apart filled with intertwined lustrous memories. Havdalah blessings involve light, spices and separation. Our week apart provides us with the light of learning, spices of new adventures and friends, and a restorative separation from the routine of everyday life. So we gratefully follow the welcome dictate of the Fourth Commandment, expanded to a week, to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy.
This summer. A Week Apart. Together. In Jerusalem. At Hartman. Shabbat Shalom.
Marshall S. Zolla is a certified specialist in the field of family law in California and a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute Board of Directors. He played a leadership role in the creation of the Hartman Institute’s Los Angeles Study Forum.