"Sabbath"

Worship Script 5


 

Worship Script (5 of 9)

The Sabbath Spice

 

OPENING WORDS

by Eric Williams, based on Pslam 98


Call to sing joyfully to fulfill our role as part of creation

Let us sing a song to the Eternal.

Let the earth and her children break forth in song.

Let the sky and its creatures in chorus reply.

Let the sea and all that is within it sound out praise.

Let the storms raise their voices, the river clap their hands, and the mountains echo a verse from their rocky peaks.

May we who are gathered here this morning sing with great rejoicing so that we can fulfill our part in the great choir of all Creation.

 

HYMN #3189 Light of Ages and of Nations

 

FIRST READING
Excerpt from the essay “The Meaning of Shabbat: A Virtual Domain in Time” by Lawrence A. Hoffman

 

To the chagrin of some people, observing the Sabbath appears in the Ten Commandments not simply as a universal good idea ( a day of rest each week -  who can argue with that?), but as a specifically commanded Jewish thing to do. How do Wall Street traders, cosmopolitan travelers, And skeptical sophisticates of other varieties make sense of keeping Shabbat as a mitzvah that has nothing to do with “rest and relaxation”?  We all concede the need to be good, ethical, even God-fearing (though we dislike the word “fear”).  But ritually observant with regard to Shabbat? Shabbat legislation ought to be marked with an asterisk, we imagine, as if the Torah had said, “Here are nine commandments - and a suggestion.”


SECOND READING
Excerpt from the  “My Jewish Year” by Adam Fisher

Shabbat  is one of our oldest holidays. It is the only holiday mentioned in the Ten Commandments: “ Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”

Long ago, the shofar  Was blown to announce the week.  People were happy to hear the sound of shofar.  They had worked hard for six days.

When the Jews heard the shofar,  They knew that Shabbat would soon begin.  They hurried home from the fields, dusty and tired. They washed and put on fresh, clean clothes. Then they ate a special dinner.

On Shabbat, no one worked. People did not farm or cook or build. Shabbat aas a day to study and to pray and to rest.

 

HYMN #185 Your Mercy, O Eternal One

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Elijah, and the Still, Small Voice, Adapted from Hebrew scripture (I Kings 19:11-12), from Toolbox of Faith, Tapestry of Faith


There are many stories from Hebrew scripture and Jewish tradition about a prophet, Elijah. Elijah believed there was one, single god when many others believed that there were a number of different gods, one stronger or more powerful than another. One of the popular gods of the time was called Baal. Elijah challenged the followers of Baal to a contest to prove whether his god or their god had more power. Elijah won. When the queen, Jezebel, found out, she was very angry at Elijah. He fled into the wilderness to escape.

After a day's journey, Elijah rested under a juniper tree. He felt afraid, and tired, and very much alone. As he dozed, an angel came to him and said "Wake up, and have something to eat and drink." When Elijah opened his eyes, there was cake and water for him. He ate and drank, and then dozed off again.

After a while, the angel returned and woke Elijah again to eat and drink, saying Elijah would need his strength because he still had a long distance to travel. Elijah continued on, to a mountain called Horeb, where his god was said to be. He found a cave in the mountainside and went inside.

While Elijah sat in the cave, he heard a voice ask him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" He believed the question came from his god, so he answered, "I am not sure what I am doing here, except that I'm very scared and frustrated. I defended you and won a contest that proved you were the one, true god, stronger than the god Baal. Even so, there are still many people who do not believe in your power, and many who refuse to keep their covenant with you. And Jezebel the queen is after me. She's angry that I won the contest. Now I'm afraid for my life, and I do not know what to do."

The voice spoke to Elijah again. Because he believed the voice belonged to his god, Elijah did what it asked him to do. He came out of the cave, and stood at the mouth of the cave, atop Mount Horeb, hoping he might feel his god's presence and understand what to do next.

Suddenly, while Elijah stood there, a great, strong wind whipped around the mountains, breaking off pieces of rock all around which went crashing down. But Elijah did not hear the voice of his god in the wind.

Then an earthquake shook the mountain up and down, with a terrific rumbling, but Elijah again did not hear the voice of his god.

Then came a fire, sweeping across the rocks and brush outside the cave. But Elijah knew his god was not in that fire, either.

After the fire, it was quiet. And then, in the calm, Elijah heard the still, small voice.

 

MEDITATION
By Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro

Bless Adonai who spins day into dusk.

With wisdom watch the dawn gates open;

With understanding that time and seasons come and go;

With all perceive the stars in lawful orbit.

Morning dawns, evening darkens;

Darkness and light yielding one to the other.

Yet each distinguished and unique.

 Marvel at Life!

Strive to know it's ways!

Seek wisdom and truth,

The gateways

To life's mysteries!

Wonderous indeed is the evening twilight.

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

The Sabbath Spice, by Rev. Amy Bowden Freedman


Have I got a tale for you! It comes from a book titled “My Jewish Year” by
Adam Fisher:


Many years ago there was a Roman emperor who loved to eat. The emperor
was friendly with a rabbi who loved to cook. The rabbi invited the emperor to
dinner on Shabbat (the Sabbath). They ate a splendid meal of soup and
vegetables and fish. For dessert the rabbi served the most delicious pie the
emperor had ever tasted. When the emperor was finished, he thanked the rabbi
and asked for the recipes. The rabbi was happy to give them to him. During the
week the emperor’s cook prepared all of the recipes, but the emperor was
disappointed. He complained to the rabbi, “The food does not taste as good as
it did in your house on Shabbat.” “Of course not,” replied the rabbi. “The
food did not have the Sabbath spice.” “But what is this Sabbath spice?” asked
the emperor. “Where can I buy it?” The rabbi replied, “My friend, you cannot
buy it. The Sabbath spice comes from the special feeling of peace and rest on
Shabbat which makes all food so much better!”[1]


If only relations between Romans and Jews had been so amicable in ancient
times! Romans and Greeks persecuted the Jews for keeping the Sabbath. Unlike
modern America, where we expect to have a weekend- two full days off from our
employment, a weekly day of rest had no parallel in ancient civilization. The closest
was the Babylonians who had a holiday called Shappatu, a day of rest observed during
the monthly full moon. However, Shappatu was not a sanctified day but regarded as
unlucky. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, wrote that spending every seventh day
without doing anything wastes one seventh of your life, basically accusing Jews of
Laziness.


The origin of Shabbat according to the Hebrew Scriptures extends far back to
the creation of heaven and earth itself. God created the world and all of its creatures
in six days, and the seventh day He blessed as the Sabbath, declared it holy, and
ceased from all the work of creation He had done. The Jewish tradition marks
holidays from sundown to sundown because of the creation story. In the book of
Genesis it is written, “and there was evening, and there was morning, one day”. So,
traditional Jews begin at sundown on Friday and observe Shabbat through sundown
on Saturday.

Like many Unitarian Universalists, my parents are an interfaith couple. My
maternal side is Portuguese Catholic. My paternal side is Jewish. My parents were
married by a Unitarian minister and began attending a Unitarian Universalist church
when I was three. I’ve always celebrated both Christian and Jewish holidays at least
Hannukah and Christmas, Passover and Easter. Once I went to college, I studied and
experienced a fuller appreciation for the complete liturgical cycle of both traditions. I
feel a deep resonance with my Jewish heritage in particular.


My great-grandfather, Alfred Freedman, was a Russian Jew. After losing both his wife
and children in Russia, he escaped to England and then immigrated to the United States where he
settled in Brockton, Massachusetts. He worked in a raincoat factory. At the time, “The Walk-
over Company” was the biggest shoe factory in Brockton. My great grandfather Alfred made
extra money by taking the shoes that were of second quality and selling them door-to-door.
Like the story of the unusual friendship between the rabbi and the roman emperor, Alfred
Freedman became friendly with George Keith, a Gentile and the owner of “Walk-over”. Mr.
Keith even supported my great grandfather in starting his own business, which became Freedman
Shoes. My grandfather was not religious when he came to this country; he was a socialist. As
he grew older, he became quite religious. When George Keith died, the funeral was held on the
Sabbath. My great grandfather felt obliged to pay his respect to the man who had shown him
such kindness. However, there is a prohibition against riding on Shabbat. So, he did not go
with the entourage. Instead, he walked behind the funeral procession a couple of miles to the
cemetery at once honoring his associate and observing his religious tradition. Alfred Freedman
gained respect from the community for this noble act.


What is most difficult for non-Jews to understand are all the prohibitions that accompany
an Orthodox observance of Shabbat. You may have heard of Jews setting timers for lamps and
appliances before sundown in preparation. There are thirty-nine acts that are forbidden such as
harvesting, baking, building, kindling a fire, and transporting. What these acts hold in common
is that each one is productive. They are acts of labor even if performed in the home. On
Shabbat, one is to refrain from influencing the physical world. This is why my great grandfather
walked to the cemetery instead of riding.


Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman rightly points out that even though honoring the Sabbath
day is the fourth commandment, many people (including Jews) treat it as if there was an asterisk
next to it. Rabbi Hoffman writes that it’s as if most people say “Here are nine
commandments—and a suggestion”.[2]


Even though I feel a deep resonance with my Jewish heritage and I am very proud of my
great-grandfather, I am not going to begin practicing an Orthodox observance of Shabbat.
However, the inclusion of the Sabbath in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, is not trivial.
The Bible outlines what it means to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” This is the
fourth commandment mentioned before the prohibitions against murder, adultery, theft, lying
and covetousness. More than a suggestion, it is a foundation of the Judeo-Christian tradition of
which we are a part.

So, what is this “Sabbath spice”? What is the missing ingredient that cannot be bought
but makes all food taste so much better? How can we bring some of the qualities and intention
of this age-old observance into our lives?


There are two key passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that refer to the Sabbath. The first
appears in Exodus and the second in Deuteronomy. God instructs Moses “Remember the
sabbath day and keep it holy.” Deuteronomy reads “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as
the Lord your God has commanded to you.” The difference in those passages is simply two
words, “Remember” and “Observe”,zachor andshamor, in the original Hebrew. Jewish
scholars assert that the use of these two words, “Remember” and “Observe” is significant.
Shabbat requires both doing as well as refraining from doing things.


Zachor: to remember Jews are asked to remember the creation story; the wonder and
goodness of the world, which sustains life. During Shabbat, human beings emulate the divine
example. Like a painter stepping back from a completed canvas, human beings pause from labor
to appreciate the goodness of living. If God’s work can be set aside for a day of rest, how can
we believe that our work is too important to set aside temporarily? It is a way of remembering
our place as human beings with inherent worth beyond our productive capacities.


Zachor: to remember also connects Jews to our history. In remembering slavery and the
exodus from Egypt, freedom and rest becomes more precious still. In remembering that our
ancestors were slaves, rest is a sacred act not only for ourselves but for our children, employees,
guests, and animals, as well. In this way remembering the Sabbath is an active protest against
materialism and competition.


Shamor: to observe I have already outlined some of the prohibitions of an Orthodox
Shabbat. There is value in placing some boundaries and limits in order to encounter the sacred.
This spiritual practice reminds us that we cannot do everything, no matter how worthy or
important our goals. Nor can webe  everything to everyone. So, by being intentional in our
celebrations and allowing ourselves to experience the fullness of time, our souls are renewed.


Shabbat is not only a day of rest, it is a day of holiness. Just as God blessed the seventh
day and declared it holy. The Sabbath ritual includes specific mitzvoth, acts of piety to be
conducted. These acts are not merely performed, their purpose is to transform and sanctify the
individual and the world.


The traditions of Shabbat are quite moving. The woman of the house lights the Sabbath
candles, with a ritual gesture and spoken blessing. Some people light one candle for each
member of the family. Every Friday evening the husband recites a love poem to his wife from
Proverbs 31: “A woman of valor who can find? For her value is far above rubies”. There is also
a special blessing of the children by their parents. There are blessings over the wine and bread
so that eating itself becomes a religious act. Orthodox and Conservative Jews attend services at
the synagogue both Friday evening and Saturday morning. The time around that is given for
conversation, playing games, resting, and studying the Torah.

As the sun sets on Saturday, there is a final mitzvah, an ending ritual. Havdalah means
“separation”, a prayer that separates Shabbat from the new week that is beginning. The prayer
asks that the sweetness of Shabbat be carried into the week ahead. The final hope is that the
peace of Shabbat fills the whole world. It is said that if every Jew observed the Sabbath three
times in his or her life, then the Messiah would come. The experience of Shabbat is that of the
world redeemed. The family is brought back to the direct experience of health, abundance,
knowledge, and justice, if only for a day.


So, by all means stock up on the Sabbath spice! Observe limits to your own activity,
creating a time of rest when you can savor the pleasure of living. Remember both your history
and privilege—where your ancestors came from, the wonder of life itself and the goodness that
sustains you. Take a moment to say a blessing as you light a candle, recite a love poem to your
romantic partner, place a hand on the brow of your children and bless them. May an
environment of peace and love in our own homes renew our souls, cleanse our hearts and
empower us to bless the world.

 

HYMN #9355 We Lift Our Hearts in Thanks

 

BENEDICTION
The Song Is Best Sung With Others by Manish Mishra-Marzetti

The universe sings no less
because time and space
wear us thin.

The music calls us
to recognize our limitations,
to recognize that
the song is best
sung with others.