Tears for Meshiah

Art and Judaism

Shabbat Shalom

Good Shabbes, as we say here!

First and foremost I want to thank all my friends and strangers who have commented on this blog and otherwise given me priceless feedback about my spiritual journey! Your comments and feedback are extremely valuable for me.

On a less joyous note (but still kinda funny) I want to say that I got a threatening comment on this blog! They threatened to “ruin my reputation” unless I pay them 0.5 bitcoin or stop my blog. They promised to do that through sending millions of scam e-mails and ads featuring my address www.vadimkulikov.org. They said they want to do that in order to “protect believers”. Oh my. Well, I deleted the comment and didn’t act on it. It was quite different from a regular scam-e-mail.

Back to Shabbes! The last letter of שבת (sh-b-t) is  ת which is sometimes pronounced as [t], but in Ashkenazi “tradition” (dialect?) is pronounced as [s] (not always though, but in the word Shabbat/Shabbes, yes). Vowels are missing and have to be guessed…

Shabbes starts with sunset on Friday night and ends around two hours after sunset on Saturday (the religious definitions is that three stars can be seen in the night sky, and I have no idea how does that compute with cloudy weather).

There is a book in the local library about all the do’s, don’t’s and other rules of Shabbat and they take up… around 400 pages. A sample…

  • You can’t touch a pen.
  • You can’t create or destroy written text, which implies that you can’t rip open a chocolate bar’s wrap at a place which contains text.
  • You can wear wrist-watch only if it can be classified as jewelry and something you would wear not only on Shabbes. Actually, you can wear it, if you don’t walk outside of the territory of your house. What is “the territory of your house”? Hang a rope around a large territory including your house and declare that that’s your “territory”. There is a rope hanging all around Manhattan so that Jews could carry stuff around on Shabbas. There is someone checking every week that the rope is properly hanging and they are posting online that “yeah, all good, you can carry your sweatpants.” But you still can’t carry a pen, just so you make no mistake about it. Generally you shouldn’t carry or touch anything if it is not for the purpose of Shabbes. Like I think you can touch a pen, if you are removing it from the dinner table in order to eat.
  • You can’t shower. I took a good shower just before…
  • You can’t drive.
  • Turning electric devices on or off is forbidden. This implies also that you shouldn’t do anything that would influence the amount of electricity used by some device. Like, automatic doors and motion detectors in general are a no-no.
  • I thought the rule is that you can’t even be in a vehicle let alone drive it, but apparently that’s false. Technically you could be in the bus, BUT… hold on to your chairs: if you step into a bus and it drives, the contribution of your weight has increased the amount of gas that is burned. Since it is forbidden to burn anything, you are breaking Shabbas. Same goes with the famous Shabbat-elevator.
  • You could drive a bike, but if it breaks, you can’t fix it.  I think fixing anything is forbidden. Wiping the floor is forbidden. Don’t spill coffee. If you spill, don’t clean. Wait, I like it!!
  • You don’t have to press the button, but your weight will contribute to electricity usage by the Shabbat-elevator, so it turns out that orthodox Jews won’t use them.
  • However, if it is your only option (say you want to get to the synagogue and you are 89 years old and can’t walk the stairs), then Shabbat elevator is a better option than a regular one.
  • You are exempt from any rules if breaking them is required to save a life or otherwise proceed with urgent health-related matters. This includes for example calling 911, driving ambulance, using an electric thermometer etc, etc. You don’t even have to consult your Rabbi in such a situation – for obvious reasons.
  • You can’t open an umbrella, because it is classified as “building a tent” and that’s explicitly forbidden.
  • You shouldn’t do anything that could look like you are breaking Shabbes. So technically, could open your umbrella before Shabbes and justify carrying it on your “territory” (see above), BUT people will think you opened it on Shabbes, so forget it. Use a raincoat. Wearing stuff is OK.
  • …not just anything though. I think you can’t wear anything that has a sewing needle attached to it and the needle has a hole in it… but that’s super advanced stuff and I am not sure about it.
  • There will be no pictures from this shabbes 😉
  • Hmmmm… that makes me wonder if there could be (i.e. are) shabbat-cameras? A camera doesn’t necessarily need to use electricity… Google: apparently not, creating pictures is considered writing, enacting a chemical change (on the surface of the film) is also a no-no.
    …you get the idea 😉

Disclaimer: I am only a student of Judaism, so I might have made some mistakes above. Don’t take my word for it and come to study in a Yeshiva for your selves.

Oh no, now I feel the need to tell you why Shabbes is THE BEST!! 😀

  • You get to sing a Shabbat song. Not as if we weren’t singing three times a week at a farbreinging anyway. Here is a picture from yesterday:

    Farbreinging last night with Rabbi Wolff, father of Benyamin Wolff my Rabbi in Helsinki.

  • Eating and drinking with friends in a relaxed atmosphere knowing that you couldn’t rush anywhere even if you wanted to, you can’t stress over anything, because everything is taken care of before Shabbat. Meals are pre-cooked, tables are pre-catered etc, etc. Just talk to your friends about intelligent stuff (=Torah), eat, pray, drink etc.
  • It is a holy day. I think if you do all that properly, you will feel it.

Moral of the whole story..? Keeping shabbas is great as far as I am concerned. The biggest downside which may hold me back from committing to it is for example that there is immense difficulty related to going to concerts for example. Can’t go to a concert on Friday night? Errgh. Can’t really go to a restaurant either. I think that can be arranged if you agree with the restaurant that you pre-pay everything (can’t handle money on Shabbas). Oh, but kosher restaurants aren’t open on Shabbas. Oh, but going to a non-kosher restaurant while still keeping Shabbas is somewhat hypocritical and that’s the last thing I want to be. Kosher food is a completely separate issue on which I’ll have a blog-post later.


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