Saturday, 18 January 2014

It's all starting to come together:

This entry is a three day catch-up which I am writing at the end of Shabbat.

Thursday, 16th:  Another day of spending time in the office, and finding out other things around like buses!

Friday, 17th:  Day to prepare for Shabbat.  I expected to go to the weekly  Parashat discussion  group at synagogue but buses and taxis had other ideas.   I needed to be at Otneil Street by 8.45 so thought 8 a.m. start would leave ample time - it would if any buses came (beginning to sound a bit like WSM?).  When waiting was not rewarded I decided to walk, especially as the bus stop had an electronic board with a message which read 'This information may not be accurate' - great!!!!!!!!!!   Got to the next bus stop, starting to wilt a bit so thought I'd wait again, still no bus - getting serious now, so I walked again, only to be overtaken just a little further on by at least four buses nose to tail (definitely even worse than WSM).   Nothing for it now but to speed up, but spirit willing flesh week so I hailed a taxi although I wasn't far from the end of the journey - how can I get what might be the only taxi driver in Jerusalem who has no idea where I want to go and can't read the map I show him, he even phoned control and gave me the phone.   Gave up, got out, decided to phone to say I'm nearly there, please wait, when the Tesco 'Pay as you Go' service said I needed to top up my credit (hardly surprising at £1.49 a min. to phone or receive calls).  To have stopped and punched in card numbers would have been ridiculous so I kept on walking.   End of story - five minutes late and I missed the lift so I decided I needed a treat to make up for the loss and  found the best ever croissant and coffee at the Masaryk Waffle House on Emek Refa'im.  Great find but now they're closing for six weeks for a refit!

The day improved by the finding of a better supermarket than before, but got bad again when all the lights in my room and bathroom blew and I couldn't find anyone to fix them.   Then came the affirmation of what it's all about: worship at Kol HaNeshama Synagogue followed by a Shabbat supper.   The synagogue is  progressive reform, with a prayer book in Hebrew, alliterated so you can pronounce it even if you can't read the Hebrew characters, and in  English also,  and Rabbi Levi is an inspiration, a channel through which  the Spirit works in a powerful way, drawing the whole congregation into closer communion with Adonai, the Divine Presence, and in doing so welcoming the Sabbath, reflecting on the past week, and going into the Sabbath to spend it with G-d as He spends it with us.

A prayer  from the Reform Siddur, the Jewish prayer book:

We enter this Sanctuary to welcome Shabbat.
Within these walls we sit surrounded by numberless generations. 
Our ancestors built the synagogue as a visible sign of God's Presence in their midst. 
Throughout our long history and our endless wanderings, it has endured.,
a beacon of truth, love, and justice for all humanity.
Its presence guided our ancestors to lives of righteousness,
holding up to them a vision of their truest selves. 

Now we, in our turn, come into this sanctuary to affirm the sacredness of our lives.
May we enter this place in peace.
May holiness wrap around us as we cross its threshold,
weariness, doubts, the flaws within our human hearts,
the hardness of the week - let these drop away at the door.
In the brightness of Shabbat, let peace settle upon us as we lift our hearts in prayer. 

This encapsulates the sacredness of Shabbat - and our need of this sacred space. 

Then to come out into a new day, a day to spend with G-d, putting everything else aside - not an occasional quiet day but a weekly day of devotion, time for family and friends - and above all to show that we are  in love with Yah as He is in love with us.  

In the home, the table will have been specially laid with the white cloth, best crockery and the candles will have been lit with a prayer before going to  synagogue:

 'Blessed are you, Lord, our God, 
Sovereign of the universe, 
who hallows us with mitzvot, 
commanding us to kindle the light of Shabbat.'.  

After synagogue, the supper where the liturgy of the bread and wine takes place in the home at the family table - this is how Jesus would have known the Sabbath in his own home,

Wine is poured and blessed, with the words:

'Blessed are you, Lord, our God,
Sovereign of the universe,
who creates the fruit of the vine'

Bread is broken and blessed, with the words:

'Blessed are you, Lord, our God,
King of the universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.'

At the table, scripture is discussed - I have nothing which compares in my own family or faith life.  A beautiful liturgy right there in the home to  repeatedly bring families together around the table to give thanks and praise Yah.  I am told that even families who do not attend synagogue will still come and share the supper ritual.

Truly a weekly blessing, as was :

Saturday, 18th:

A city in shutdown!  No shops open, no buses running, very few cars or people on the streets.   I spent the morning reflectively and then made a picnic lunch.   Again it was like a summers day, and I only had to walk two or three hundred yards up King George Street to find a park to sit and eat.   There were a few families playing with their children, some groups walking back from synagogue, no noise, just the peace of Yah's presence as He watched His beloved children enjoying their day with Him.  There can be no doubt that Judaism has this right in obedience to G-d's commandment 

You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.'

The words of Jesus:  'Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I didn't come to destroy them, but to fulfill them.   For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. '  Matt. 5:17, 18 NIV

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