Shabbat, A Day Of Rest & Contemplation: A Messge From Our President & CEO

Shabbat... A day of rest, of contemplation.

Shabbat has become an important time of the week for me ever since I moved to Kansas City. I anticipate its coming and start preparing a day in advance.

This all began for me after experiencing the beauty of  welcoming in Shabbat with so many of you. Even during my interviewing, I had the pleasure of sharing a Friday evening meal at Debbie and Alan Edelman's home. Once I moved here, there were so many invitations where I was privileged to experience Shabbat. Each experience was unique and special.

From individually lighting the candles with Donna Oberstein and participating in a service led by Ace Allen, sharing the delicious meal and challah baked by Joyce Zeldin and the wise musings of her husband, Stan, the generational dinner with the Bernards, the joy of singing with the KU Chabad students, Statland Leadership shabbat dinners at Sandi and Ed Fried's home and then at Mike and Renana Abrams’ home, and the lively and animated discussion with Marla Brockman and John Goldberg which included our son from Tacoma, Washington. All memorable, all heartwarming.

The sense of community in Kansas City is different than I have experienced in any other community. The inclusiveness in holiday celebrations and Shabbat has been a great gift. It’s given me the opportunity to reflect on the way I express my Jewishness which has always been a fundamental building block in my life. I took a lot for granted. I was just Jewish and that seemed to be enough. I supported a synagogue, went to religious school, celebrated holidays, and sent my kids to religious school, but Shabbat was just a day off for me to do errands.

I never before examined my Judaism as I have since moving to KC. The ‘why’ of how I do things was something I never really contemplated. I did things more by rote than from a place of true understanding. So, I began my journey here. I have studied individually, with teachers and with chevra.

I have incorporated Shabbat in my weekly habits. I bake challah. I celebrate each week with my staff. I write Shabbat messages. I read. I meditate. I study.

I’ve been studying Shabbat and reading the writings of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He said, “The Shabbat is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Shabbat. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.” That’s how I view Shabbat now. I don’t wait for it but rather plan for it. I set my table, buy flowers, prepare the meal, and shut off my phone. It is different than it used to be.

Rather than thinking of all I can get done, I think about unwinding, resting, reflecting, rejuvenating, and being at peace with myself. It’s amazing the difference I feel. As Rabbi Irving Greenberg stated, “The Shabbat comes to an end weekly, but it creates an appetite and a satisfaction that lasts through the week until it is renewed again."

I wish you a Shabbat of rest and pausing from the everyday hecticness of life. We are in uncharted waters, many of us alone and not able to celebrate Shabbat with our families. Make this time a new way of connecting. A community member, Suellen Fried, shared that she lights Shabbat candles with her granddaughter from Boston each week and Shabbat has becomes so very special for her. In my family, we bake challahs and take pictures and share with each other. We are still perfecting the art. They may not be the most beautiful but the aroma and taste are wonderful.

Thanks to all of you who reach out to me each week in response to my blogs. I love hearing your stories and sentiments. I love the connection. I hope you will share with me how you make Shabbat special in your home. And above all, as the stress of the week’s work abates, remember why life is worth living.

Wishing you a meaningful Shabbat filled with joy and peace.