Shabbat Service Readings

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Shabbat Service Readings

O God, where can I find you? Your glory fills the world.

Behold, I find You in the mind free to sail by its own star.

In words that spring from the depth of truth,

Where a scientist toils to unravel Your world’s secrets,

Where an artist makes beauty in Your world,

Where men and women struggle for freedom,

Among the lonely and the poor, the lowly and the lost.

Wherever noble deeds are done.

I find You

In the merry shouts of children at play.

In the mother’s lullaby, as she rocks her baby to sleep,

In the sleep that falls on an infant’s eyes,

In the smile that falls on sleeping lips,

And in the child as she grows to embrace a world of wonders,

A world of fun and light,

Of laughter, dreams, radiance, and love.
Genuine prayer is an event in which man surpasses himself.

Man hardly comprehends what is coming to pass.

Its beginning lies on this side of the word,

But the end lies beyond all words.

At times all we do is to utter a word with all our heart.

Yet it is as if we lifted up a whole world.

It is as if someone unsuspectingly pressed a button and a gigantic wheel-work were stormily and surprisingly set in motion.

-Abraham Heschel

God, help us now to make this new Shabbat.

After noise, we seek quiet;

After crowds of indifferent strangers,

We seek to touch those we love;

After concentration on work and responsibility,

We seek freedom to meditate, to listen to our inward selves.

We open our eyes to the hidden beauties

and the infinite possibilities in the world You are creating;

We break open the gates of the reservoirs

of goodness and kindness in ourselves and in others;

We reach toward one holy perfect moment of Shabbat.

-Ruth Brin

Take time to think—thoughts are the source of power.

Take time to play—play is the secret of perpetual youth.

Take time to read—reading is the fountain of wisdom.

Take time to pray—prayer can be a rock of strength in time of trouble.

Take time to love—loving is what makes living worthwhile.

Take time to be friendly—friendship gives life a delicious flavor.

Take time to laugh—laughter is the music of the soul.

Take time to give—any day of the year is too short for selfishness.

Take time to do your work well—pride in your work, no matter what it is, nourishes the ego and the spirit.
To worship is to stand in awe under a heaven of stars,

before a flower, a leaf in the sunlight, or a grain of sand.

To worship is to work with dedication and skill;

it is to pause from work and listen to a strain of music.

Worship is loneliness seeking communion.

It is a thirsty land crying out for rain.

Worship is kindred fire in our hearts;

it moves through deeds of kindness and acts of love.

Worship is the mystery within us reaching out to the mystery beyond.

It is an inarticulate silence yearning to speak;

It is the window of the moment open to the sky of the eternal.

-William H. Houff

For cities and towns, factories and farms, flowers and trees, sea and sky—

God, we praise You for the world and its beauty.

For family and friends, neighbors and cousins—

God, we thank You for friendship and love.

For kind hearts, smiling faces, and helping hands—

God, we praise You for those who care for others.

For commandments that teach us how to live—

God, we thank You for those who help us to understand Your laws.

And for making us one family on earth, the children of One God—

God, we praise You, who made all people different, yet alike.

There is something about the congregation praying together, as one, that makes me feel more alive than on a brisk winter’s day. There is something about all of our voices rising together, as one, which fills me with a quiet happiness that stays with me long after the singing stops. Why is it that here, I can feel separate bodies come together, as one, and hold on to that perfect unity as long as possible? Why, here, am I able to reach out effortlessly, and touch someone’s hand, by doing that, touch heaven? There is something about this place which brings out the best in me, for it brings out the best in us all. Surely this place is holy and I did not know it. I give thanks for this new and beautiful finding.
There are days when we seek things for ourselves and measure failure by what we do not gain.

On the Sabbath we seek not to acquire but to share.

There are days when we exploit nature as if it were a horn of plenty that can never be exhausted.

On the Sabbath we stand in wonder before the mystery of creation.

There are days when we act as if we cared nothing for the rights of others.

On the Sabbath we are reminded that justice is our duty and a better world our goal.

Therefore we welcome Shabbat.

Day of rest, day of wonder, day of peace.

Each person has a Torah, unique to that person, his or her innermost teaching. Some seem to know their Torahs very early in life and speak and sing them in a myriad of ways. Others spend their whole lives stammering, shaping, and rehearsing them. Some are long, some short. Some are intricate and poetic, others are only a few words, and still others can only be spoken through gesture and example. But every soul has a Torah. To hear another say Torah is a precious gift. For each soul, by the time of his or her final hour, the Torah is complete, the teaching done.

-Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

Source of all goodness, as we join in Shabbat worship,

We ask your blessings.

Grant us health enough to perform our daily tasks,

Wealth enough to answer our needs,

Compassion enough to feel the needs of others.
Give us strength enough to recognize our faults,

Wisdom enough to understand Your laws,

Loyalty enough to discharge our duties.
Give us courage enough to be true to the best within us,

Charity enough to see the best in others.

Give us patience enough not to become discouraged,

Hope enough to overcome all fears for the future,

And faith enough to feel your presence. Amen.
As Gandhi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. He was unable to retrieve it as the train was moving. To the amazement of his companions, Gandhi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first. Asked by a fellow passenger why he did so, Gandhi smiled. “The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track,” he replied, “will now have a pair he can use.”
If I could reach that certain star

And make a wish so true

It would not just be a wish for me

but a wish for all of you.

In a world so full of problems,

My wish would be for peace

People of all nations joining hands

Not wanting to escape or be released.

War, crime destruction

These three words we use every day

If I had that one wish

These three words would be wiped away.

Countries would no longer be at war

People would be good to each other

We were all created equal

God said to love one another.

So if I had that one wish

It would be for peace not sorrow

This way children just like you and me

Would have a future – a tomorrow.

-Written by a twelve year old in a letter to President Clinton
To live content with small means;

to seek elegance rather than luxury

and refinement rather than fashion;

to be worthy, not respectable,

and wealthy, not rich;

to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages

with open heart;

to study hard;

to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently

await occasions, hurry never;

in a word, to let the spiritual,

unbidden and unconscious,

grow up through the common—

this is my symphony.

-William Henry Channing
It is evening, and children slowly dream away the storms of day. It is evening, and stars glow gently in the quiet heavens. Can we understand a dream? Find a net to capture the meaning of a glowing star? What bridge spans the vast space we must cross to reach understanding? How small are we who attempt the journey! And yet somehow we learn to find our glory in a brave and endless struggle to comprehend eternal mysteries. We are voyagers in an infinite sea, our destination always beyond the horizon. But we are voyagers.

-Gates of Prayer

Be understanding to your enemies.

Be loyal to your friends.

Be strong enough to face the world each day.

Be weak enough to know you cannot do everything alone.

Be generous to those who need your help.

Be frugal with what you need yourself.

Be wise enough to know that you do not know everything.

Be foolish enough to believe in miracles.

Be willing to share our joys.

Be willing to share the sorrows of others.

Be a leader when you see a path others have missed.

Be a follower when you are shrouded by the mists of uncertainty.

Be the first to congratulate an opponent who succeeds.

Be the last to criticize a colleague who fails.

Be sure of your final destination, in case you are going the wrong way.
Be loving to those who love you.

Be loving to those who do not love you, and they may change.

Above all, be yourself.


To pray is so necessary and so hard. Hard not because it requires intellect or knowledge or a big vocabulary, but because it requires of us humility. And that comes, I think, from a profound sense of one’s brokenness, and one’s need. Not the need that causes us to cry, “Get me out of this trouble, quick!” but the need that one feels every day of one’s life—even though one does not acknowledge it—to be related to something bigger than one’s self, something more alive than one’s self, something older and something not yet born, that will endure through time.

-Lillian Smith

The universe is one great kindergarten for man. Everything that exists has brought with it its own peculiar lesson. The mountain teaches stability and grandeur; the ocean immensity and change. Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds, and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes—every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man. Even the bee and ant have brought their little lessons of industry and economy.

-Orison Swett Marden

If I had my life to live over,

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.

I’d relax. I would limber up.

I would be sillier than I have been this trip.

I would take fewer things seriously.

I would take more chances.

I would take more trips.

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.

I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles by I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.

I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.

I would go to more dances.

I would ride more merry-go-rounds.

I would pick more daises.

-Nadine Stair (age 85)
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake just for me, and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me good night, and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked…and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

A person at prayer is like a bed of coals,

As long as a single spark remains, a great fire can again be kindled.

But without that spark there can be no fire.

Always remain attached to God, even in those times when you feel unable to ascend to God.

You must preserve that single spark—lest the fire of your soul be extinguished.
All I ever really needed to know I learned in kindergarten.

Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder.

-Robert Fulghum
Each of us enters this sanctuary with a different need.
Some hearts are full of gratitude and joy:

They are overflowing with the happiness of love and the joy of life; they are eager to confront the day, to make the world more fir; they are recovering from illness or have escaped misfortune. And we rejoice with them.

Some hearts ache with sorrow:

Disappointments weigh heavily upon them, and they have tasted despair; families have been broken; loved ones lie on a bed of pain; death has taken those whom they cherished. May our presence and sympathy bring them comfort.

Some hearts are embittered:

They have sought answers in vain; ideals are mocked and betrayed; life has lost its meaning and value. May the knowledge that we too are searching, restore their hope and give them courage to believe that not all is emptiness.

Some spirits hunger:

They long for friendship; they crave understanding; they yearn for warmth. May we in our common need and striving, gain strength from one another, as we share our joys, lighten each other’s burdens and pray for the welfare of our community.

-Gates of Prayer
Think freely. Practice patience. Smile often. Savor special moments. Live God’s message. Make new friends. Rediscover old ones. Tell those you love that you do. Feel deeply. Forget trouble. Forgive an enemy. Hope. Grow. Be crazy. Count your blessings. Observe miracles. Make them happen. Discard worry. Give. Give in. Trust enough to take. Pick some flowers. Share them. Keep a promise. Look for rainbows. Gaze at stars. See beauty everywhere.
Golden Rules for Living…

If you open it, close it.

If you turn it on, turn it off.

If you unlock it, lock it up.

If you break it, admit it.

If you can’t fix it, call someone who can.

If you borrow it, return it.

If you value it, take care of it.

If you make a mess, clean it up.

If you move it, put it back.

If it belongs to someone else and you want to use it, get permission.

If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.

If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If it will brighten someone’s day, say it.

If it will tarnish someone’s reputation, keep it to yourself.

We can do more.

We will do more.

We will do more, and we will do it now.

We will do it now, and we will do it whenever the need arises.

We will do it with love, with passion, and with compassion.

We will help others do it.

We will do unto others; so shall they do unto us.

We will decide what to do wisely, but we will spend more time doing than deciding.

We will live.

We will help others to live.

God will help us; we will help others; and we will thank God.

Thus shall the Cycle be complete, and thus shall the world progress.

We will do more.

And we will do it now.

To be a Jew means to wake up and to keep your eyes open to the many beautiful, mysterious, and holy things that happen all around us every day. Many of them are like little miracles: when we wake up and see the morning light, when we taste food and grow strong, when we learn from others and grow wise, when we hug the people we love and feel warm, when we help those around us and feel good. All these and more are there for us every day, but we must open our eyes to see them.

-Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

There are many fine things which you mean to do some day, under what you think will be more favorable circumstances. But the only time that is surely yours is the present, hence this is the time to speak the work of appreciation and sympathy, to do the generous deed, to forgive the fault of a thoughtless friend, to sacrifice self a little more for others. Today is the day in which to express your noblest qualities of mind and heart, to do at least one worthy thing which you have long postponed, and to use your God-given abilities for the enrichment of some less fortunate fellow traveler. Today you can make your life significant and worthwhile. The present is yours to do with it as you will.

-Grenville Kleiser

We are challenged on every hand to work untiringly to achieve excellence in our lifework. Not all men are called to specialized or professional jobs; even fewer rise to the heights of genius in the arts and sciences; many are called to be laborers in factories, fields, and streets. But no work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

One song can spark a moment,

One flower can wake the dream.

One tree can start a forest,

One bird can herald spring.

One smile begins a friendship,

One handclasp lifts a soul.

One star can guide a ship at sea,

One word can frame the goal.

One vote can change a nation,

One sunbeam lights a room.

One candle wipes out darkness,

One laugh will conquer gloom.

One step must start each journey,

One word must start each prayer.

One hope will raise our spirits,

One touch can show you care.

One voice can speak with wisdom,

One heart can know what’s true,

One life can make the difference,

You see, it’s up to you!

What is success?

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent

and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics

and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by

a healthy child, a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.
Light a candle.

Drink wine.

Softly the Sabbath has plucked the sinking sun.

Slowly the Sabbath descends,

The rose of heaven in her hand.
How can the Sabbath

plant a huge and shining flower

in a blind and narrow heart?

How can the Sabbath

plant the bud of angels

in a heart of raving flesh?

Can the rose of eternity grow

in an age enslaved

to death?
Light a candle!

Drink wine!

Slowly the Sabbath descends

are in her hand

the flower, and in her hand the sinking sun.


Judaism, done right, has the power to save your life from being spent entirely on the trivial. But it can do more than that. Its goal is not just to make your life more satisfying. Its goal is not the survival of the Jewish people. That is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The ultimate goal is to transform the world into the kind of world God had in mind when He created it.

-Rabbi Harold Kushner

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come from the depths of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way in the arid desert sands of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by You into ever-widening thought and action—

Into that heaven of freedom, my Maker, let my people awake.

-Rabindranath Tagore
Birth is a beginning

And death a destination.

And life is a journey:

From childhood to maturity

And youth to age;

From innocence to awareness

And ignorance to knowing;

From foolishness to discretion

And then, perhaps, to wisdom;

From weakness to strength

Or strength to weakness—

And, often, back again;

From health to sickness

And back, we pray, to health again;

From offense to forgiveness,

From loneliness to love,

From joy to gratitude,

From pain to compassion,

And grief to understanding—

From fear to faith;

From defeat to defeat to defeat—

Until, looking backward or ahead,

We see that victory lies

Not at some high place along the way,

But in having made the journey,

stage by stage,

A sacred pilgrimage.

Birth is a beginning

And death a destination.

And life is a journey,

A sacred pilgrimage—

To life everlasting.

-Alvin H. Fine
Joshua Ben Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received Torah from them. Joshua ben Perachiah says:

Find yourself a teacher.

Get yourself a friend.

And give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

-Pirke Avot
Prayer is speech, but not ‘mere’ speech. The word is not to be despised. Words have power over the soul. “Hear, O Israel!” is a cry and an affirmation, a reminder of glory and martyrdom, a part of the very essence of our people’s history. Our prayer books are but words on paper; they can mean little or nothing. Yet the searching spirit and questing heart may find great power in their words. Through them we link ourselves to all the generations of our people, pouring out our souls in prayer with those of our brothers and sisters. These words, laden with the tears and joys of centuries, have the power to bring us into the very presence of God. Not easily, not all at once, not every time, but somehow, sometimes, the worshipper who offers up his heart and mind without reservation will know that he has touched the Throne of Glory.

-Gates of Prayer

Normally, we are compelled to pass from one task to another in quick succession; one duty is completed only to be followed immediately by the next; a difficulty surmounted, a problem solved is replaced with such rapidity by further worries and by other cares that we have no choice, in daily life, but to live from one minute to another, to eliminate from our minds everything by that which is immediately ahead of us and which demands immediate attention.

In worship, however, we are freed from the pressure of life. There are no immediate tasks to be preformed: no insistent needs clamoring for immediate satisfaction. For once, we are guaranteed Time and Quietude—the rarest possessions in life today. For once, we can escape from the tyranny of the next minute with its worries, tasks and duties.

And when, as now, we do have time to take a larger view of life; when, in calm reflection, we enlarge our vision until we see life in its entirety, considerations come before us which tend to be excluded in the rush of everyday experience. Elements in life which at other times can receive but little of our attention now come into the forefront of our thought. We can now allow our spiritual needs to take precedence over those material satisfactions to which, usually, we pay such high regard and to which, normally, we devote so large a measure of our effort. In worship, the foremost place in our consideration is given to that which develops character, all that which lends nobility and dignity to human life, all wherein we can express the greatness of the human spirit. We consider what it means to us and for our lives that we have been endowed by God with reason, with a power to love, with a sense of the beautiful, and with a knowledge of righteousness.

-Gates of Prayer

Public worship draws out the latent life in the human spirit. Those who, when alone, do not, or cannot, pray, find an impulse to prayer when they worship with others; and some will pray together who cannot pray alone, as many will sing in chorus who would not sing solos. As two walking together in some dark wood feel the stronger and braver each for the other’s near presence, so many who are spiritually weak in themselves will find spiritual strength in a common spiritual effort. That is the value of public worship for the individual. It has also a social value.

Public worship expresses the sanctity we feel in the social bond. A congregation at worship is a society declaring its devotion to God, a community forged by faith in God. Here is an experience that can deepen the social spirit and strengthen the bond of sympathy among men and women. If in public worship I realize that my prayers are also the prayers of the one by my side, it will make us more effectively aware of our common humanity and implant a spirit which will be potent for social good. They who worship God together bring God into their mutual relations. If public worship does not produce this result, then it is but private worship in a public place. If it does bring men and women closer together under the influence of God, then it is a way to the sanctification of human society.

-Gates of Prayer
Religion is not merely a belief in an ultimate reality or in an ultimate ideal. These beliefs are worse than false; they are platitudes, truisms, that nobody will dispute. Religion is a momentous possibility, the possibility namely that what is highest in spirit is also deepest in nature—that there is something at the heart of nature, something akin to us, a conserver and increaser of values…that the things that matter most are not at the mercy of the things that matter least.

-Gates of Prayer

Judaism teaches us to understand death as part of the divine pattern of the universe. Actually, we could not have our sensitivity without fragility. Mortality is the tax that we pay for the privilege of love, thought, creative work—the toll on the bridge of being from which clods of earth and snow-peaked mountain summits are exempt. Just because we are human, we are prisoners of the years. Yet that very prison is the room of discipline in which we, driven by the urgency of time, create.

-Gates of Prayer

How wonderful, O God, are the works of Your hands! The heavens declare Your glory, the arch of sky displays Your handiwork.
In Your love You have given us the power to behold the beauty of Your world, robed in all its splendor. The sun and the stars, the valleys and hills, the rivers and lakes—all disclose Your presence.
The roaring breakers of the sea tell of Your awesome might; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air bespeak Your wondrous will.
In Your goodness You have made us able to hear the music of the world. The raging of the winds, the whisperings of trees in the wood, and the precious voices of loved ones reveal to us that You are in our midst.
A divine voice sings through all creation.

-Gates of Prayer

Then Isaac asked the Eternal: Ruler of the world, when You made the light, You said in Your Torah that it was good; when You made the expanse of heaven and earth, You said in Your Torah that they were good; and of every herb You made, and every beast, You said that they were good; but when You made us in Your image, You did not say of us in Your Torah that humanity was good. Why, God? And God answered him: Because you I have not yet perfected, because through the Torah you are to perfect yourselves, and to perfect the world. All other things are completed; they cannot grow. But humankind is not complete; you have yet to grow. Then I will call you good.

-Gates of Prayer

Our rabbis taught: Six hundred and thirteen commandments were given to Moses. Micah reduced them to three Mitzvot: “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
Isaiah based all the commandments upon two of them: “Keep justice and righteousness.”
Amos saw one guiding principle upon which all the Mitzvot are founded: “Seek Me and live.”
Habbakuk, too, expounded the Torah on the basis of a single thought: “The righteous shall live by their faith.”
Akiba taught: The great principle of the Torah is expressed in the Mitzvah: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But Ben Azzai found a principle even more fundamental in the words: “This is the story of humanity: when God created us, God made us in God’s likeness.”
And Hillel summed up the Torah in this maxim: “What is hateful to you, do not do to others. The rest is commentary: you must go and study it.”

-Gates of Prayer

We have learned: Say always, ‘The world was created for my sake,’ and never say, ‘Of what concern is all this to me?’ Live as if all life depended on you. Do your share to add some improvement, to supply some one thing that is missing, and to leave the world a little better for your stay in it.

-Gates of Prayer

Laugh, laugh at all my dreams!

What I dream shall yet come true!

Laugh at my belief in man,

At my belief in you.

Freedom still my soul demands,

Unbartered for a calf of gold.

For still I do believe in man,

And in his spirit, strong and bold.

And in the future I still believe—

Though it be distant, come it will—

When nations shall each other bless,

And peace at last the earth shall fill.

-Gates of Prayer
Lord God of test tube and blueprint,

Who jointed molecules of dust and shook them till their name was Adam,

Who taught worms and stars how they could live together,

Appear now among the parliaments of conquerors and give instruction to their schemes;

Measure out new liberties so none shall suffer from his father’s color or the credo of his choice;

Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream as those who profit by postponing it pretend;

Sit at the treaty table and convoy the hopes of little people through expected straits.
And press into the final seal a sign that peace will come for longer than posterities can see ahead,

That man unto his fellow man shall be a friend forever.

-Gates of Prayer
O God, You have called us to peace, for You are Peace itself. May we have the vision to see that each of us, in some measure, can help to realize these aims:

Where there are ignorance and superstition, let there be enlightenment and knowledge.

Where there are prejudice and hatred, let there be acceptance and love.

Where there are fear and suspicion, let there be confidence and trust.

Where there are tyranny and oppression, let there be freedom and justice.

Where there are poverty and disease, let there be prosperity and health.

Where there are strife and discord, let there be harmony and peace.

-Gates of Prayer

The Torah is God’s choicest gift to the House of Israel.

Israel without Torah is like a body without a soul.

Like water, it refreshes and purifies.

Like wine, it gladdens the heart.

Like a crown, it exalts us above all creatures.

It is nobler than the crown of priesthood or royalty.

When Torah entered the world, freedom entered it.

The whole Torah exists only to establish peace.

Its first and last aim is to teach love and kindness.

What is hateful to you, do not do to others.

That is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary; go and learn it.

Those who study Torah are the true guardians of civilization.

When the voice of Jacob is heard, the hand of Esau does not prevail.

Wherever people study Torah, the Presence of God dwells among them.

Honoring parents, performing acts of kindness, and making peace among people, these are among our highest duties;

But the study of Torah is equal to them all, because it leads to them all.

-Gates of Prayer
I’ve only been around a while, but I’ve noticed something that doesn’t make much sense. Things change a lot. Last week it was raining, but today the sun was out. My favorite color used to be red, but now it’s blue. Yesterday I was sad, but today I’m happy. So things change. Okay, that I understand. Without change the world wouldn’t be a very interesting place. Change is a good thing. Now, here is the part that doesn’t make much sense. I’ve been Jewish all my life. Things have changed about me, but that hasn’t, and I’m glad. I love Judaism and Jewish things, so if change is good, how come I love something that hasn’t changed at all? Oh, now I think I see. Change is good, but some things are too beautiful to change…like Judaism.

God, thank you for letting me be Jewish, for the love of family and friends, and for beautiful moments.

Please do not let these things change.


To live content with small means;

to seek elegance rather than luxury,

and refinement rather than fashion;

to be worthy, not respectable,

and wealthy, not rich;

to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages

with open heart;

to study hard;

to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently

await occasions, hurry never;

in a word, to let the spiritual,

unbidden and unconscious,

grow up through the common—

this is my symphony.

To light candles in all the worlds—

that is Shabbat.

To light Shabbat candles

is a soul-leap pregnant with potential

into a splendid sea, in it the mystery

of the fire of sunset

Lighting the candles transforms

my room into a river of light,

my heart sets in an emerald waterfall.


A thought has blown the market place away; there is a song in the wind and joy in the trees.

The Sabbath arrives in the world, scattering a song in the silence of the night: eternity utters a day.

Where are the words that could compete with such might?
Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space;

On Shabbat we try to become attuned to the holiness in time.

Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth;

On Shabbat we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.

Six days a week we seek to dominate the world;

On the seventh day we try to dominate the self.

The world has our hands, but the soul belongs to Someone Else.

To set apart a day a week, a day on which we would not use the instruments so easily turned into weapons of destruction.

A day for being with ourselves,

A day on which we stop worshipping the idols of technical civilization,

A day on which we use no money,

A day of armistice in the economic struggle with our neighbors and with the forces of nature.

Is there any institution that holds out a greater hope for human progress than the Sabbath?

—Abraham Joshua Heschel

For the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath,

Doing what is fitting

Throughout all generations

To make Shabbat an eternal covenant

Between Me and the children of Israel,

A sign throughout all time and space.

For Adonai did the work of heaven and earth in six days,

And on the seventh day God ceased work,


And breathed a new soul into the world.

We thank You for Your gift of the Sabbath,

Your holy day.

It reminds us of the work of creation.

It is ever new.

It nurtures and renews our souls.

Help us to understand its true value

so that we will not abuse it.

Help us to observe it in peace of mind

and purity of heart.

Help us to live humbly

by Your commandments

that we may serve You in truth.

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day when we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the creation of the world.

—Abraham Joshua Heschel

The laws of the Shabbat are set aside in cases where there is danger to life, as is the case with all the mitzvot. Therefore, a sick person who is in danger may have all his needs taken care of on the Shabbat (even when so doing violates the laws of Shabbat) if it is so ordered by a doctor. If there is some question as to the seriousness of the illness (as in the case where one doctor says there is danger and another says there is not), then the Shabbat is set aside on the principle that, when there is any doubt about danger to life, we set aside the Shabbat in order to save life.


A great pianist was once asked by an ardent admirer: “How do you handle the notes as well as you do?” The artist answered: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists, but the pauses between the notes—ah! That is where the art resides.”

In great living, as in great music, the art may be in the pauses. Surely one of the enduring contributions which Judaism made to the art of living was the Shabbat, “the pause between the notes.” And it is to the Shabbat that we must look if we are to restore to our lives the sense of serenity and sanctity which Shabbat offers in such joyous abundance.

—Likrat Shabbat
Six days a week we humans use time. We value it as a means to an end. Time “well spent” for us is time that helps us acquire something.

Yet to have more does not mean to be more. Indeed, there is a realm of time where the goal is not to have, but to be, not to own, but to give, not to control, but to share, not to subdue, but to be in accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things, becomes our sole concern.

The seventh day rights our balance and restores our perspective. It is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date, but an atmosphere.

On the seventh day, we celebrate time rather than space. Six days we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the seventh day we try to become attuned to holiness in time.

It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time. To turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

—Adapted from Abraham Joshua Heschel

By and large we modern Jews are not exhausted by physical exertions during our work week. Few of us dig tunnels, unload cargoes, mine coal, man steel furnaces, or operate heavy machinery. We do not go to work by trudging many miles on foot. We have at our disposal the amenities of the automobile, caught in traffic jams, or commuter trains invariably crowded and late, or the buses and subways, of which the less said the better. By the end of the week our muscles are not physically fatigued; instead, our nerves are frayed. Not toil, but tension, is the toll that modern life exacts from us and from our contemporaries. We need rest and surcease, not so much from physical strain as from psychic stress built up during the week.

It is precisely the traditional Sabbath that speaks to our present condition, by enjoining the avoidance of travel, shopping, cooking, and writing, and by limiting our movements to what we can do with our own power, by walking. What the prayer book beautifully describes as menucha shelema, “total rest,” is only within the power of the traditional Sabbath to bestow. As tensions continue to mount in contemporary society, the traditional Sabbath, that requires an all-but-total separation from work-a-day tasks and concerns and worry, becomes an ever more precious resource for life in a world increasingly dedicated to death.

—Robert Gordis
How, above all, do we show our domination over the earth? In that we can fashion all things in our environment to our own purpose—the earth for our habitation and source of sustenance; plant and animal for food and clothing. We can transform everything into an instrument of human service. We are allowed to rule over the world for six days with God’s will. On the seventh day, however, we are forbidden by divine behest to fashion anything for our purpose. In this way we acknowledge that we have no rights of ownership or authority over the world. Nothing may be dealt with as we please, for everything belongs to God, the Creator, who has set human beings into the world to rule it according to the divine word. On each Sabbath day, the world, so to speak, is restored to God, and thus we proclaim, both to ourselves and to our surroundings, that we enjoy only a borrowed authority.

—Adapted from Samson Raphael Hirsch

God, help us now to make this new Shabbat.

After noise, we seek quiet;

After crowds of indifferent strangers,

We seek to touch those we love;

After concentration on work and responsibility,

We seek freedom to meditate, to listen to our inward selves.

We open our eyes to the hidden beauties

and the infinite possibilities in the world You are creating;

We break open the gates of the reservoirs

of goodness and kindness in ourselves and in others;

We reach toward one holy perfect moment of Shabbat.

—Ruth Brin

We rejoice in the light of day, in the warmth of the sun.

We rejoice in the light of day.

In the quiet night, whose dark sky reveals worlds beyond the dark.

We rejoice in the peace of night.

In the earth and its hills and valleys, its fields of grain, its fruit and flowers.

We rejoice in the beauty of the earth.

We rejoice in homes where we find shelter from the cold and storm.

We rejoice in the shelter of home.

In the love of fathers and mothers with whose blessing we have gone forth into the world.

We rejoice in the love of parents.

In the children who bless our homes, who are the promise of tomorrow.

We rejoice in our children.

In friends who stand by our side in sorrow and in joy, in triumph and defeat.

We rejoice, and will rejoice for evermore.


O God

give me strength to forget

evils over and done,

history’s falls and fouls,

yesterday’s frozen hope.
And give me strength to keep watch

for fair weather after a stormy day,

incense of flowers

and quiet waves.

Give me strength to wait and time to hope:

until the last day

strength to keep watch and rejoice

as doves are hatched and babes are born,

as flowers bud and blossom

and visions break out and grow.

Give me strength,

O God.

Imagine a day-long spiritual fiction suspending ordinary time. There would be neither past nor future. Our world work would be finished. By closing the books on the past week and refusing to think about the next one, we have nothing left to do. For this reason, on the seventh day there is only the present, simply being alive.

On this day everything we do, and the reasons for everything we do, can be only here and now. If our world work is done, we cannot do anything about making it better later. Indeed, there is no later.

We quit planning, preparing, investing, conniving, evaluating, fixing, manipulating, arranging, making, and all the other things we do every day. All these things began in the past and will end in the future. We do them, not for their own sake, in the present moment, but with an ulterior motive, for the sake of some later time.

We are obsessed with work. Six days each week we rest so we can go back to work. We play so that we can go back to work. We love so that we can go back to work. One ulterior motive after another. Worrying over the past, living in the future. We are either tied to the past through our uncompleted tasks or compulsively drawn to them through our need for completion in the future. But one day each week there is a day devoted to being present, the seventh day. On that day, we do not have to go anywhere or do anything. Everything is done and we are already here.

—Lawrence Kushner
The Sabbath is the greatest wonder of religion. Nothing can appear more simple than this institution, yet no legislator in the world hit upon this idea! To the Greeks and Romans it was an object of derision, a superstitious usage. But it removed with one stroke a contrast between slaves who must labor incessantly and their masters who may celebrate continuously.

—Benno Jacob

In an ancient legend, God speaks to the Children of Israel, saying, “My children, if you are willing to accept the Torah and observe its mitzvot, I will grant you a most precious gift.”

“And what is that precious gift to be?” ask the Children of Israel.

“The world-to-come,” is the reply.

“Tell us what the world-to-come is like,” retort the Children of Israel.

And God responds, “I have already given you the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a taste of the world-to-come.”

—The Jewish Book of Why

Before I fully understood the holiness of the day, before I truly appreciated its beauty, and before I could interpret its rituals, I knew the Sabbath was a “miracle.” That was how my father always spoke of it, from the time I was a child and well into his hundredth year of life.

“When I was a young man, an immigrant from Russia,” he would say, “the United States had no labor laws regulating working conditions. People worked long hours, seven days a week, without rest. But imagine, more than three thousand years ago the Bible commanded that all work stop for an entire day every single week, and not only for the ancient Israelites but for all who lived among them, including slaves. And not only for people, but for animals as well. What a revolutionary practice that was. What a miracle!”

—Francine Klagsbrun
It is evening, and children slowly dream away the storms of day. It is evening, and stars glow gently in the quiet heavens. Can we understand a dream? Find a net to capture the meaning of a glowing star? What bridge spans the vast space we must cross to reach understanding? How small are we who attempt the journey! And yet somehow we learn to find our glory in a brave and endless struggle to comprehend eternal mysteries. We are voyagers in an infinite sea, our destination always beyond the horizon. But we are voyagers.

-Gates of Prayer

I know now that though eyesight may dim, insight need not,

That though our sense of taste may diminish, our sense of humor can become sharper.

That though our sense of hearing may interpret a shout as a whisper, our listening hearts can be attuned to hear much that is unspoken,

That though everybody is too old for something, nobody is too old for everything.

That we can, and we need to be caring and concerned and loving people, whatever our age.

-Loretta Taylor

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