Creating Shabbat for Yourself
March 29, 2024
By Mike Steklof, Ed.D.

A few years ago, I was exposed for the first time to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath. In this masterpiece, Heschel tells us that, “the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals” and he argues that Shabbat is a realm of time, distinct from the realm of space, where we live the other six days of the week.

Last week, the Buffalo Jewish Federation brought together 7 couples for the first of seven gatherings of Reset and Refresh, a program created by the Jewish Federations of North America, that Buffalo and three other communities across North America are piloting this spring. The program gets its name from Shamor (commonly translated as keep) and Zachor (commonly translated as remember) which are the primary commandments of Shabbat.  This program was designed to offer couples of mixed heritage a welcoming Jewish space for self-discovery, rejuvenation, deepening relationships, and building community through the lens of Shabbat. While there is no expectation that participants in this program will observe Shabbat in a traditional way, a goal is for them to create for themselves Jewish practices and rituals that are personally meaningful.

Over time, Shabbat has become the most sacred Jewish practice in my life. Along the way, I’ve been inspired by the Sabbath Manifesto, learned the practicalities of Shabbat from Noam Zion and his book A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home and studied in chavruta, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed’s Peninei Halakha: Laws of Shabbat. Through my learning, the most salient lesson has been that Shabbat cannot be studied, it must be experienced together in community. Priyah Parker, in her book, The Art of Gathering, says it best, “The way we gather matters. Gatherings consume our days and help determine the kind of world we live in, in both our intimate and public realms. Gathering – the conscious bringing together of people for a reason – shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world.” By being together in community, one truly experiences the pleasure of shabbat.

When we gather again for our second session of Reset and Refresh, we will explore a text from Sara Hurwitz’s book, Here All Along. She says, “I used to think there was just one “traditional” form of Judaism and that only in recent decades had we started reimagining it. But that is clearly not true. Throughout history and in communities across the globe, we have continued to reinterpret what Judaism is, and reimage what it could be”. As we explore traditional shabbat rituals and create new ones, this text will remind us that Judaism has always been reinterpreted and reimagined.

This Shabbat, consider following Rabbi Heshel’s advice and create for yourself a “palace in time with a kingdom for all.”




Mike Steklof, Ed.D. is Senior Director at LiNK Jewish Buffalo





Creating Shabbat for Yourself - Jewish Thought of the week 2022