Most of us like eating Challah and having a good laugh. We enjoy being entertained and listening to jokes and comedians. Indeed the Talmud relates how certain Rabbis used humour and jokes to engage with their audiences. But, the humour and jokes were the means and there was real Torah and Jewish content behind them.
We also enjoy that feeling of community. I remember Rabbi Sacks once saying that communities are like a cold bed on a winter night- The more you warm it up, the more it warms you.
The Shabbat Project ( or whatever you call it in your country- ShabbatUK, The ShabbosProject etc.. ) is soon upon us, when communities and families throughout the world will be involved in various enterprises involving baking challah on Erev Shabbat, Shabbat meals, singing Havdalah etc.
Make sure to use the IsraelB Online Community for what’s on over the Shabbat Project in Israel.
You cannot deny there is a profound beauty in this.
To get tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the world to bake challot together, eat Shabbat meals together, sing zemirot and havdalah together is something we must all be inspired by and admire.
On the other hand, I also think it’s time we realized that we need to aim higher than Challah baking and the other cultural niceties that the Shabbat project involves and engage in real, intellectually challenging Jewish education and learning.
Rabbis – We cannot see Judaism dumbed down to eating, comedy and entertainment. Judaism has far more to offer the mind of the 21st century and we must aim higher – Use the Shabbat Project to show the beauty and relevance of Jewish learning and texts.
- How about year long projects where communities complete the study of Chumash or Mishna and make siyumim on the Shabbat Project Shabbat?
- How about a series of shiurim be prepared to be learnt throughout the world over the Shabbat Project weekend. Yes, get the best people to prepare the teaching material and it would be accessible to all.
- How about communities learning the Halachot of Shabbat the whole year round and the ideas behind them, and on the Shabbat Project Shabbat give presentations on what they have learnt?
- How about doing Hebrew reading crash courses and for those more advanced Rashi script reading courses and over the Shabbat, there will be reading quizes etc
- For the more committed, how about learning the basic Halachot of preparing food on Shabbat over the Shabbat Project Shabbat?
- How about flying over Israelis to communities abroad over the Shabbat Project Shabbat and getting them to run programmes and give shiurim in Ivrit to advance the level of Ivrit literacy and competence. Maybe these Israelis should spend the following Sunday in the communities, doing crash courses in Ivrit, teaching Israeli culture and literature.
Focus more on engaging and stimulating Jewish education, and less on easy, ‘feel good’ Jewish culture.
So yes, the Shabbat Project is a fantastic idea and clearly brings Jews together, enjoying Jewish culture and cuisine. But, at the same time, let’s try to reach beyond just ‘feeling’ part of a community and also engage in real Jewish education and learning.
We must be able to provide the same intellectual stimulation through our communities and Jewish education, that many of these young people and professionals experience in their academic and professional lives. If we don’t, we are failing them and selling them short.
Let’s aim for less of the comedy and entertainment and more for the transmitting and teaching of real Torah and Jewish content and ideas – ENGAGE IN REAL JEWISH EDUCATION.
Wishing you all an enjoyable Challah bake and hopefully much more too!