As the sun begins to sink on Friday night, some think of the weekend, rest or recreation. Others think of Shabbat, which approaches like a cure for an illness, or water for the thirsty. With our phones and computers, there is never a time when we are not working, never a time when we are not in touch with friends, never a time when we are unaware of what is going on in the world. But Shabbat comes to free us from this tyranny of time.
The sun is down, the candles have been lit. Peace settles upon us. On Shabbat we are commanded not to work, but it is so much more than a day off. Shabbat is a day of joy, a day of holiness. Our sages tell us that Shabbat is a little taste of paradise– but this is true only if we keep Shabbat.
On Friday night, our Shabbat dinner is raised above the other dinners of the week. For many of our ancestors, this was the only night they would have meat. We use our best dishes, and a beautiful tablecloth. We come to synagogue to sing together, to pray together, and to be together. Whether you love Tot Shabbat, our regular service, Junior Choir, or Ruach Shabbat best, coming to Riverdale Temple on a Friday night is a joy beyond price.
On Saturday we pray in the golden light of our day of rest. We read Torah, we think deep thoughts, we share each other’s joys and sorrows. Afterwards, the congregational potluck kiddush lunch is a time to discuss, argue, and process the week. Then we go home for a well deserved rest before we reluctantly end Shabbat with havdalah, when three stars appear in the sky.
Not all of us are able to keep every aspect of Shabbat, and we do not keep it as the Orthodox do. But we do keep Shabbat, and it is so very important. It is and always has been one of the central elements of Judaism. It is a day on which we do not strive to do or to become, but just to be. I know that my life would be so much less beautiful, so much less meaningful, without Shabbat.
So come and experience Shabbat with us! As the Torah tells us, V’shamru b’nei Yisrael et hashabbat la’asot et hashabbat l’dorotam b’rit olam Israel shall keep Shabbat and do Shabbat through their generations as an eternal covenant.
Rabbi Thomas Gardner
Riverdale Temple opens its doors every Friday evening for Shabbat Eve services, which are held in our sanctuary and feature joyful music led by Cantor Sharett-Singer, and a thought-provoking sermon by Rabbi Gardner. Riverdale Temple has long been known for its dedication to musical quality and innovation; our musical style is varied and constantly evolving, but always participatory.
Once a month Riverdale Temple hosts Ruach Shabbat, an energizing, musical celebration of the Shabbat spirit. This engaging, participatory service incorporates the traditional Kabbalat Shabbat prayers welcoming Shabbat, led by Rabbi Gardner, and is put to music by the full Ruach Shabbat band, featuring our own Cantor Inbal Sharett-Singer; our house pianist/saxophonist, Ofer Assaf; Jonathan Singer on guitar; Sanford Simon on mandoline; Josh Myers on bass; and Nadav Snir-Zelniker on percussion. This moving, joyous service is an experience not to miss, and one to bring your friends and family to experience for themselves!
Shabbat Morning services feature engaging and relevant discussion based on the weekly Torah portion, led by Rabbi Gardner. Our congregation is following a seven-year cycle of reading the Torah; each year chanting one “aliyah” of the traditional Torah portion for that week. (During 5778 we will be reading the 1st aliyah). Each week the portion is broken into 3 aliyot in which our congregants are invited to receive the honor of blessing the Torah. The Torah is chanted and members of the congregation, along with guests, are encouraged to participate as ba’alei k’riyah.
Riverdale Temple Shabbat services are open to all ages, and all services are followed by an Oneg or Kiddush in the ballroom.