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Shabbat holds the key to a bright Jewish future

by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

It has been a tough year for all of us. Fortunately, we’re coming up to Rosh Hashana – a time of renewed optimism and hope. Every Rosh Hashana, we get a fresh start – the opportunity to begin anew, to create ourselves in a new way, and put our lives on an entirely new trajectory.

Shabbat, as we know, is a great way to do exactly that. For the past eight years, we have been working together as part of this remarkable global movement because we recognise the power of Shabbat to change people’s lives, and indeed, to change the world.

Shabbat empowers us to find the time and space we need to create ourselves – to build our inner world, strengthen our faith, nurture our family, find meaning and purpose; to create a better quality of life. It gives us a day of happiness and togetherness once a week and a Divine formula to curate the kind of life we yearn for.

Shabbat teaches us the skills and lessons for happiness from our Creator, who knows us better than we know ourselves. It teaches us to savour life’s blessings, to free ourselves from our burdens, to access true pleasure. It teaches us how to renew ourselves and nurture our most precious relationships, how to make the most of our time and find wholeness in our lives. It instils in us the humility, wisdom, trust, optimism, generosity, altruism, gentleness, appreciation and stillness we need to live optimally and joyfully.

Shabbat is all about hope, about the possibility of a better future. The Talmud says that it reminds us of the final redemption that will come to this world. Every week, Shabbat brings light into our lives, filling us with joy and hope.

The light of Shabbat is reflected in the Shabbat candles we light as it comes in and the Havdalah candle we light as it goes out. When we light Shabbat candles we celebrate and reaffirm the light of truth, faith, compassion, wisdom and joy that Shabbat brings into our lives. And at the end of Shabbat, we light the Havdalah candles, signifying our intent to take that light with us into the week.

Shabbat lights up our life. It restores our faith and optimism and reminds us that this world is essentially good and that Hashem created the world out of love, and He did it for us; He created us to be recipients of His good, both in this world and the next.

And Shabbat is the ultimate good in this world, the only mitzvah described in the Torah as a gift – a gift given to us by G-d, says the midrash, as a constant companion through life. Shabbat is a true friend to the Jewish people, our constant companion on all of our journeys through history.

For thousands of years, since the very inception of our people at Sinai, Shabbat has accompanied us – nurturing us, holding us together, connecting us to our divine mission and to each other, and giving us our collective identity as a people.

I believe one of the Jewish people’s greatest strategic imperatives today – in the Diaspora and in Israel – is to return to Shabbat. This has been the driving vision of The Shabbat Project, and the motivation for thousands of volunteers in communities across the Jewish world.

This Rosh Hashana, as we reflect on the year that has been and look ahead to the year still to come, let us reconnect with this vision of a bright Jewish future. And let us recommit ourselves with renewed energy to bringing the magic of Shabbat to our communities – and changing the Jewish world.

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein is the chief rabbi of South Africa and the founder of The Shabbat Project.

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