Meaning and purpose in the mitzvah of Shabbat

“More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” This powerful quote from Ahad Ha’am was meaningfully explored at our Year 7 Kabbalat Mitzvah ceremony this week.

The Kabbalat Mitzvah is a significant milestone event for King David students. It acknowledges the important moment that occurs around this time as they reach their bnei mitzvah years, where our students become recognized as members of the Jewish community in their own right. As adult members of our community they accept a range of rights and responsibilities that shift their relationship with their Jewish identity to one that is negotiated on an individual level rather than the identity that was passed down through the choices of their parents.

We celebrate Kabbalat Mitzvah with a unique evening of intergenerational learning. The theme of this year’s evening was Shabbat. This was deliberately chosen as something that each member of the broad KDS community can relate to. It is our hope that our students will find meaning and purpose in their acceptance of the mitzvah of Shabbat, in whatever form that speaks truly to them and that this is something that stays with them throughout their lives.

At the ceremony we were privileged to hear from three generations who each spoke about their unique connection to Shabbat. Year 7 student, Ami, shared her weekly joy in participating in Shabbat with her family. Ami spoke of the sense of awe she experiences when reciting Shabbat prayers knowing that this moment unites her with Jews all over the world.

KDS parent, Sarah Hyman, spoke of the frantic rush in the preparation for Shabbat and how Shabbat arrives and the chaos subsides to a beautiful and musical family encounter with space for passionate debates, jokes and deep connections with family and friends.

Ephraim Finch, a King David grandparent, spoke in great detail of the unique traditions and rituals that form his family’s Shabbat experience. He spoke of the careful and tender preparation of the Shabbat meal, the adoption of clothing that designates and separates Shabbat from the week and the joy, contentment and naches in sharing Shabbat with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Following these intimate and moving speeches, the students and families moved through a wide range of workshops on the theme of Shabbat. Participants enjoyed a variety of learning experiences which included opportunities to explore Shabbat practices in Israel, make Shabbat ritual objects, learn to bake challah and consider Shabbat as an entry point to sustainability and mindfulness.

These workshops involved students learning alongside and with their parents, siblings and grandparents and we hope that each of these sessions adds something to each family’s unique Shabbat approach.

After these workshops, the guests were given time to view the unique Parashiot projects that required each student to understand and connect with a meaningful Parasha.

The students then led us in a beautiful Havdalah experience. It was so moving to witness the students’ excitement in participating in the ritual and, as the lights were turned off in RMC and were replaced by the glow of the Havdalah candles, the room was instantly enveloped in song.

This was a glorious end to Kabbalat Mitzvah and I hope it will create a lasting impression on our Year 7 students and their families.