This week we started to learn about some of the customs people have on Shabbat. We began by thinking about why it was so important for the Hebrews (the earlier name for Jews) to have a mandated day of rest - - we have to go back to the days when we were slaves, and then think about suddenly being free. It’s a really tremendous change in lifestyle and mindset. We talked a little bit about the idea of work as it relates to Shabbat. It has to do with 39 categories of work the Hebrews performed on the mishkan – their traveling synagogue of sorts – used while wandering in the desert. So when some people say they do not use phones or doorbells or electricity on Shabbat because it’s work, the actual “work” is one of these 39 categories – in this case, the act of completing something (a circuit connection, as I recall). But, there are lots of other ways to celebrate Shabbat. My favorite example to give students is that growing up, my mother only made dessert once a week – on Friday nights. That was a great way to make the idea of Shabbat very special to my family.
We also worked on making hamsas – the palm-shaped amulet popular among many Jews, and commonly used as a wall hanging with a blessing for the home in the middle. The symbol is of Middle East and North African origins, and likely was popular with Sephardi Jews before becoming more universal. While they symbol does not have to do with Shabbat, it is a Jewish symbol, and makes for a fun painting and decorating project.
This coming Sunday, we will continue to learn about Shabbat customs, stories and ideas, as well as continue making our hamsas. We will not be painting, but we will be using glue and markers.