Having worked in Jewish outreach for many years, it has been interesting and at times amusing to watch Jews interact with their heritage. Sometimes I think it is like watching when people meet the swimming pool for their first swim of the season, when the water is still crisp, cool and tingly on the toes. Some dive in and squeal in sheer delight, others sit basking in the sun, dipping ankles only, and are out before you even have a chance to coerce them to try the deliciousness. Then there are what I term the ‘golden meaners’ a term inspired by Maimonides…befitting for those who find the equilibrium in the euphoria. They neither get too extreme and dive too deep; nor stay stagnant in parev waters. Instead, they celebrate the immersion and integrate their newfound wonder slowly, methodically and with intention.
The Shabbos Project is quite the litmus test for the modern day Mr Joogle. It is totally manageable, with it being only once a year and is an uber cool experience with all the incredible attraction it garners worldwide. It acts as the perfect opportunity to dive right in and dive right out because you only have to keep it again in 51 weeks’ time. Right? So, what exactly are the long term effects of this revolutionary endeavour? What’s happens next on one’s Jewish agenda post project? As Jews, we are intrinsically ambitious; mediocrity was ousted from the Sinai vernacular way back when. We don’t do mediocre.
So, where to from here I humbly ask? It’s almost the ultimate Jewish hypothesis. If Jews were to keep one Shabbos a year, in its entirety from sundown to stars out, what will and could happen??! Well the truth is a lot has and will happen. What I have found to be truly inspiring are the incremental changes that have taken place since the inception of the project nearly two years ago. A revolution always begins its paving process with many a hiccup. In the initial stages, as the Shabbos Project took shape, there were many questions that had to be answered…Do we come in subtle or strong? How do we encourage the full package? Will all segments of the community buy in? Will the boys give up their golf and the girls their Saturday salon time? How do we bake challah with thousands of women? The hypotheses were numerous. Nothing was certain. Nothing could be gauged; it was all but a hopeful dream…
And then, something mesmerising happened… The project took off with such a boom and bang and 25 hours later the country was startled, truly amazed. People looked over their shoulders and asked, “did that just happen? Did 92% of South African Jewry just keep Shabbos? And if you think that was big, in year two, the world turned around and was like, “what’s this Shabbat Project that has gotten New York’s top lawyers to jump into yellow cabs to in haste to head home for the Sabbath?" It turned car parks into dough factories and fields in candlelit concerts. Who were this crazed bunch and how did this cataclysmic change take its course?
As Jews, we even amaze ourselves? We do things we didn’t think we would or for that matter, could do. We find ourselves in situations we could not have pre-empted even in our wildest dreams… Shabbos has a way of manifesting the supernatural into reality. It operates in the realm of the metaphysical. You see, Shabbos is no ordinary day, in fact, it is quite the antithesis. It is the most extraordinary day you will ever have the privilege of experiencing and when you do… you will find your worldview altered. You may not necessarily know why or how, but it will happen. And, then you will be faced with the million dollar question: where to from here… And that my friends, is the ultimate litmus test…Do those eureka moments dissipate and does life carry on as before, or do we forge a new path into the unknown? A path that illuminates our way with brighter spiritual lenses, enabling us to view the world differently with greater depth and sensitivity and a more acute sense of reality and purpose and enriched connection to G-d.
For centuries Shabbos has kept the Jewish people alive… It could only usher in more goodness, prosperity and brotherhood if it became the accepted norm in some form for Saturday antics. Revolutions are enthralling to watch as they trail blaze the way forward to a better tomorrow… I for one can’t wait to watch the next episode of #shabbosproject shenanigans!
Shira Druion is Joburg born and raised, she has been a journalist for the past 10 years. She is responsible for marketing/PR and programming for young professionals at Chazak, a prominent outreach organisation in London. She also runs Dramatix, a drama company for children of all ages. When she isn't working, she’s doing yoga or writing her blog, thespicylife.blog