Shabbat and Jewish Holiday Observances

challah for secular jewish shabbat service

As the fingers of the challah intertwine, so do we join hands in our common humanity…

Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, is a gift we can give ourselves every week of the year. Beginning each Friday night at sunset and continuing until sundown on Saturday, Shabbat offers us 24 hours for self-renewal, for reconnecting with ourselves and our loved ones, for separating ourselves from “work-mind” and embracing a sense of openness and heartfullness—what I call Shabbat mind—that can elude us during our busy week.

Secular Jews can enter into Shabbat mind in any number of ways. Some of us are satisfied with having a relaxed Friday night meal. Others choose to turn off distracting computer and TV screens. Some think of Shabbat as a time to allow the Earth to rest and avoid driving or excessive use of water and electricity, while others choose to explore the natural world, enjoying the Earth’s beauty. Some use the day for our own creativity. And many of us are busy with household and parenting tasks – approached with Shabbat mind, even our weekend chores can be more relaxed and restorative.

traditional and secular jewish symbols menorah, chai, dreidle, jewish star

Holidays are wonderful opportunities to deepen our experience of being Jewish. Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, and Passover are perhaps the best loved and most frequently celebrated holidays among secular Jews. Each in their own way, these holidays address issues of freedom, dignity, and selfhood—as individuals and as a people. Our holidays offer us opportunities throughout the year to reflect on our lives and to re-align ourselves with our deeper values.

Sometimes our holiday experiences seem to become rote, or lacking in depth, or perhaps overly focused on the meal without enough “spiritual” food for thought. Either individually, as a family, or in groups, I will help you to find deeper meaning in Shabbat and any of the Jewish holidays you choose to observe.