Posts on the topic of "Shabbat"
One of my favorite themes is the unique Jewish character of the State of Israel. We should take pride in the fact that most public transportation takes a break on Shabbat, that the Army keeps kosher, and that all government offices have a mezuzah on the doorpost.
On the other hand, I wish there were more individual displays of classical Jewish (as opposed to "Israeli") pride by the country's political leaders.
So imagine my thrill at the news that Israeli President Shimon Peres will be skipping the festive opening ceremonies of the London Olympics – because they extend past sundown on Friday night (July 27).
Peres had sought to avoid the conflict by sleeping overnight in the Olympic Village. Yet despite numerous appeals to the Olympic Committee, his request was rejected on the grounds that only "athletes" are allowed to overnight in the village.
I guess organizers consider the 88-year-old too big a security risk.
Though Peres is not personally observant, he does not travel publicly on Shabbat out of respect for millennia-old Jewish tradition and in deference to his role as representative of the Jewish State.
It appears to me that Peres' decision to forgo the opening ceremonies will have a far more positive impact on the Israel public than anything he could have gained by attending them.
Interesting to note a historical precedent: When the original Greek Olympics were featuring athletes running and jumping stark naked, the Jews were teaching the importance of looking past physical externalities and into the deeper spiritual values.
In this instance, Shimon Peres has sent that same message again. Kudos!
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My mother lives in a 14-story building in Jerusalem, and taking the Shabbat elevator can be a laborious, time-consuming proposition.
What’s a Shabbat elevator? Since observant Jews do not operate electrical devises on Shabbat (but can use a devise that is preset from before Shabbat), the way to use an elevator on Shabbat is to pre-set it to stop and open its doors at every floor. Yes, every floor on the way up, and every floor on the way down (then back up again). This way, nobody has to summon an elevator or press any buttons; just get in and go for the (slow) ride.
The ride is not so bad, but it’s waiting for the elevator that can be a drag.
Now an enterprising young Jerusalem engineering student, 24-year-old Shlomo Friedman, has come to the rescue. He’s invented a small wireless devise that receives real-time updates from the elevator – then displays on a small LCD screen exactly how much time remains until the elevator arrives.
Purchase one of these devises for your apartment or hotel room and – presto – no more waiting. Just head out to the elevator when there’s about a minute left – and hop right on!
The market for this is not as small as you might think. Friedman estimates that in Israel there are approximately 70,000 high-rise buildings (apartments and hotels) that use Shabbat elevators. Beyond this are other heavily Jewish areas such as New York, Miami, London and – believe it or not – Panama City, where 20 buildings use Shabbat elevators.
Learn more about this fascinating invention: www.beeontime.co.il
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FINAL: In Friday's rescheduled semi-final game, the Shabbat Stars of Beren Academy won a decisive 58-46 win over Dallas Covenant to advance to the State Championship, as Zach Yoshor led the team with 24 points.
In the final, following a well-deserved Shabbat rest, the team fought valiantly, going into locker room at halftime tied at 19-19, but couldn't hold on and lost 46-42. A dramatic ending to an amazing story. Beren-sanity!
UPDATE: In what one U.S. newspaper called "a Purim miracle," an injunction filed with U.S. District Court has prompted the Texas league to rearrange its schedule and allow Beren Academy to participate in the state basketball tourney.
Though Beren officials had opposed legal action, some players and parents filed suit alleging a violation of religious freedoms ― essentially forcing the league to abide by what should have been a common-sense decision. The lawsuit itself is a fascinating read.
Throughout the ordeal, Beren's players have acted with graceful maturity and brought loads of positive PR to the institution of Shabbat. Whatever happens in their playoff game, these kids are total winners.
Remember when Sandy Koufax refused to pitch in the World Series on Yom Kippur ― and became a Jewish hero?
A similar clash of principles is playing out this week in Texas.
Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, won its regional basketball championship to advance to the Final Four of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.
Unfortunately, the tournament game is scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday, which falls on Shabbat. Beren's players announced they would not attend, saying that nothing ― short of a medical emergency ― would trump 3,000 years of Jewish observance.
Beren Academy appealed for a change in game time, but the league refused ― even though the other three semifinalists announced willingness to make the accommodation. The league has been heavily criticized by a wide spectrum of concerned citizens including an NBA coach and a U.S. Senator.
Interestingly, the league's bylaws expressly forbid any games from being played on Sundays, in deference to Christian teams. In other words, the league already makes an accommodation for religious observance.
Why the double standard?
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But I think there's a bigger question: Are these boys being short-changed? Are they missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize their championship dreams, to excel in the spotlight, and to bring positive PR to a Jewish day school?
To me, the answer is obvious. After having worked hard all year to post a 23-5 record (the best season in school history, what one writer called "a Hoosiers season in yarmulkes"), these kids are surely disappointed.
But in the long run, loyalty to Jewish ideals and standing up for what's right are much greater lifelong lessons.
Especially in today's world, with fads fleeting at cyber-speed, young people need strong core values.
Nobody knows whether Beren would have won the championship. But with write-ups everywhere from ESPN to the New York Times, they have, paradoxically, excelled in the spotlight and done an award-winning job of representing the Jewish people.
Albert Katz, a junior guard, told the Houston Chronicle:
Talk about a teachable moment.
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The Forward has an article about "Jack Lew and the Power of Shabbat" which nicely articulates the idea of Shabbat as a counter-balance to our 24/7 iPhone world:
We live at a moment when interest in Shabbat is being rekindled, as broad swaths of people feel enslaved by the incessant nature of the information age. We are witness to a world crying out for a Sabbath.
Shabbat-observant Jews would seem to have a heightened obligation then to turn off, power down and stay at home. We have something precious to teach the world and our most influential members must lead the charge. Shabbat stands for humility in a world of such total human domination that we risk forgetting that we did not bring this world into being. And it stands for a vision of human society that rejects the constant work that characterizes slavery.
But the article goes on to make a very spurious leap in logic. It uses the biblical imperative to settle the land of Israel (which allows for certain leniencies in Jewish law) as a precedent for creating halachic leniencies when involved in general government-related work. My rabbinic training leads me to believe that Rav Sheshet (the Talmudic sage cited as a source) would summarily reject the proposed extension of his law.