It’s one of those moments in life that you can never truly appreciate until you have experienced it for yourself. Like every other day in the week, you are juggling countless demands on your time. You have a hectic family life and a multitude of professional responsibilities. The phone seems to be ringing constantly and important emails from colleagues are relentless. The noise and the pace of your day-to-day routine are no longer a surprise – that’s just the way modern life is.
But then, in a matter of moments, it all changes. A match is struck, two small flames are lit and a unique serenity descends.
With a long, deep breath, the blessing is recited and then you begin to feel it – the beauty of Shabbat.
That pressing concern which has been troubling you all week at work can no longer bother you and family members are no longer distracted by the television or their mobile devices.
You are surrounded by the people you care about most. It is true to say there is no experience quite like it.
ShabbatUK is back. And this year, our aim is to add another very special element to the experience of welcoming in Shabbat – the knowledge that for one week, more people than ever before will be taking that deep breath and lighting those candles.
As well as the inspiring Challah Makes, energising Havdalah events and other countless incredible ways in which we have celebrated ShabbatUK in the past – this year we are making a pledge.
Let no Jew, regardless of their circumstances feel that he or she cannot experience that unique moment of peace when Shabbat begins.
If you are a doctor on shift in a hospital on a Friday night, we’d like to share Shabbat with you.
If you are struggling with ill health or other challenging personal circumstances, we’d like to share Shabbat with you.
If you live in a community where there are few or no other Jews, we’d like to share Shabbat with you.
If you are more used to spending Friday evenings in the office than at home, we’d like to share Shabbat with you.
Regardless of your religious affiliation or level of observance, I’d like to invite you to share the most special weekend of the year with us.
If Shabbat is something that you have never tried, take this opportunity to experience it. And if Shabbat is already second nature to you, please find a way to make this a particularly special one and make an effort to share it with someone who might be less familiar with it.
Together with the hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world who are taking part in the International Shabbos Project, Le Projet Shabbat or ShabbatUK, this is truly an event that brings the Jewish world together like no other.
For me, one of the most exciting features about the run-up to ShabbatUK is the unprecedented creativity and endeavour that volunteers all around the country put into inspiring and enthusing their fellow congregants.
This year the bar is higher than it has ever been. From the remarkable ‘Whitefield 500’ programme, which will reach 500 Whitefield Hebrew Congregation members in north Manchester, with special learning events in their homes, to the beautiful ‘Sharing Shabbat Art Gallery’ at Hendon United Synagogue in north London, which will feature artwork by Liora Rosenberg, a talented young artist who tragically passed away earlier this year – there is so much happening, and each event seems more exciting and innovative than the last.
Similarly, the Great Challah Makes captured our community’s imagination once again. Last year we had an incredible 27 events nationwide.
This year, there are already plans for twice that number and there is the potential for many more to come!
Wherever you are, and whatever you’re planning, we look forward to sharing this very special ShabbatUK with you.