Saturday, July 25, 2009
My Hebrew teacher, Gilla Nissan, invited me to a Kabbalat Shabat in the home of another student's mother in the hills above Ventura Blvd.
Twelve people gathered for a Mediterranean-style meal starting with the blessing of bread and wine and the ritual washing of hands.
Prior to the meal was a time of quiet centering in the patio outside the home overlooking the San Fernando Valley.
We each in turn lit a candle and said the words, "Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu, melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzotayn v'tzunu l'harlik ner shel shabat." (Someone please improve my clumsy Hebrew-to-English-alphabet spelling.)
"Blessed are You, Lord God, ruler of space and time, who has commanded us to light the Sabbath candles," is a rough translation.
It was beautiful. Gilla led a group conversation on topics such as, "When did Shabat begin for you?"
She introduced a central text about the Shabat: Let us go, my beloved, to welcome the bride.
The Shabat is the bride. We need to welcome her, prepare for her. The beloved is God, whom we draw in to us from beyond to share this time of Shabat.
Gilla stressed the importance of being intentional--doing Shabat preparations and activities with a conscious intent of being in God's presence.
We defined Shabat as a consciousness of God's presence, a state of mind we can enter into at morning prayers and meditation and at other times during the week.
Nevertheless, as a group we all support each other in cherishing God's presence in a special way on the Sabbath.