Rabbi Alan Green
WINNIPEG - Shabbat, the seventh day of the Jewish week, "is something one enters into body and soul, or you could say it enters into your body and soul," says Rabbi Alan Green of Winnipeg's Shaarey Zedek Congregation.
Green said although Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday and the appearance of three stars, it can be experienced anytime.
"Shabbat is an eternal reality, a heavenly reality," he said. "It is always there to be called upon, it is a symbol of eternity and a symbol of redemption."
Green recently spoke at St. Boniface Cathedral Hall at the invitation of Winnipeg's Bat Kol Tri-Diocesan Committee. The Bat Kol Institute, based in Jerusalem, is an international association of Christian men and women studying the Bible in its Jewish context.
As is done for Shabbat, Green lit candles and recited a blessing.
"Even though it's a Wednesday night," he said, "something special just happened to me. You can tap into the Shabbat anytime and anyplace, even in the middle of a Catholic cathedral and why not? God is one."
Green led his audience through a meditation, which he described as a sample of Shabbat.
"We withdraw into a consciousness that can take in the whole world," he said.
Shabbat recalls the story of Genesis and God's creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and resting on the seventh.
"God not only rested, but he withdrew from his work and became his essence," Green said.
"Upon Shabbat we don't work, we put aside that role and attempt to become just who we are, not in relationship to our occupations or money, we throw all that away, we become our essential selves."
Green said there is a range of worship among Jews from the orthodox Hasidim to liberal congregations such as his own. There is also an accompanying range of adherence to the 39 rules of Shabbat, most of which relate to ancient ways of life.
"An observant Jew would never drive on Shabbat," said Green. "For one thing it's too fast."
The word "Shabbat" is related to "sit and stop, or cease. To make ceasing, to make not working, to do not doing."
Green quoted Rabbi Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel saying, "Shabbat is somewhat like eternity, a taste of what is to come."
"You don't have to wait until you die to experience heaven," Green said.
"Christianity says we get our reward after we die. Shabbat is an opportunity to bring heaven to earth. The possibility of experiencing heaven right here and right now is part of what Shabbat is all about."
Ideal ways to pass Shabbat, he said, include taking a Shabbat nap, singing Shabbat songs with family, reading a book, "or ideally studying the Torah."
When a person is able to experience their essence and become separate from one's job or occupation, "you realize you are not that activity and that God is conducting that activity through you," he said.
"It gives you a sense of how things are really supposed to be in the world."