By Scott Strasser, November 29 2016 —
On Nov. 25, the University of Calgary’s Faith and Spirituality Centre hosted its first formal Shabbat observance.
Shabbat is a weekly Jewish ritual that takes place on Fridays, no later than 18 minutes before sundown. The observance marks the beginning of the seventh day of the Jewish week — the Sabbath — which, according to scripture, is a day of rest.
“It comes from Genesis. It’s that God worked for six days and on the seventh day, he rested. So for Shabbat, you work for six days and then you rest,” said Faith and Spirituality Centre program outreach coordinator Jessica Burke, who led the observance.
A dozen people attended the event, most of whom were non-Jewish U of C students interested in learning about Shabbat.
Burke is Jewish and explained to the group how the ritual involves lighting two candles, reciting a blessing of Kiddush, drinking a cup of wine poured from a goblet and eating homemade bread.
Burke lit the candles at 4:16 p.m., before reciting the blessings.
“It has to be 18 minutes before sundown, lest you forget and not do it by sundown,” Burke said. “In Judaism, our days actually start at night.”
The reason for Shabbat, explained Burke, is to refrain from labour and reflect on the spiritual side of life. But she said how strictly someone adheres to Shabbat depends on the individual.
“Technically, you’re not supposed to work on Shabbat, but it depends on what strain of Judaism you are — if you’re Orthodox or Reform, Reconstructionist or Conservative,” Burke said. “So, what someone considers working is subjective.”
Other than not working, restrictions on Shabbat include not sowing land, not mending anything and not lighting fire.
Following the blessings, Jews typically eat a large meal with family members.
“At my house I make different things — dumplings, stew, dessert. It’s like a full Thanksgiving meal pretty much every week,” Burke said. “It’s really fun. I’m the happiest when I have a table full of people.”
The Faith and Spirituality Centre will host a second Shabbat observance on Dec. 2 and a third on Dec. 9. The observances will continue in the new year.