Shomer Shabbos: Finding Meaning in the Observance of Shabbat by Ivy Helman

20151004_161012One of my first posts on was about ways to re-soul on Shabbat. Since I haven’t yet revisited any topic in the years I’ve been writing for this blog, I thought now is the perfect time and Shabbat is the perfect subject matter. Why is now the perfect time? Why is Shabbat the perfect subject matter? These two questions share the same answer. I’ve been grappling with discovering a meaningful observance in the midst of my new teaching endeavors.

I teach, study and read about Judaism every day of the working week (and often Sundays) for 8 to 10 hours a day (sometimes more). Don’t get me wrong, I love it! I also practice Judaism every day and know there is a difference between the two. However, while I hesitate to admit it, the last thing I want to do on Shabbat is immerse in Jewish prayer, song and feasting. Why? Because in so many ways, my study and preparation for class brings me closer to my identity, helps me strengthen my faith and commits me more to its observance. However, when it comes to Shabbat, traditional observance feels like work and does not re-soul me the way it should. Continue reading “Shomer Shabbos: Finding Meaning in the Observance of Shabbat by Ivy Helman”


I attended a service at Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, MA two Fridays ago.  During the service, Rabbi Shoshana Perry spent a few minutes addressing the last word of a Hebrew prayer found in the Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah.  It was translated in the siddur as “God rested” but the Hebrew word used was vayinafash, which comes from the word nefesh, or soul.  The prayer emphasizes on the seventh day that God did not rest as much as God took time out to re-soul.  Rabbi Perry believes that our Shabbat should be spent doing things that help us also re-soul.

Initially, I spent quite a long time considering why God would need to re-soul and what exactly God would do to re-soul.  When I realized the futility of trying to sort that out, I moved a little closer to home: what do I do on Shabbat to re-soul?  I was quite overwhelmed trying to answer this question as well.

Traditionally, Shabbat is about study, rest, prayer and family among other things.  In fact, many Jews avoid creative processes like writing, cooking, painting, driving and working because God rested from creative work on the seventh day.  (Incidentally, our creativity is also how we are considered to be made in the image of God).  Part of the reason this idea struck me so deeply is because I often find painting, cooking and writing rejuvenating. Continue reading “RE-SOULING ON SHABBAT BY IVY HELMAN”

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