When I broke this trip I knew it would mean I was celebrating my 41st Birthday in Israel. My birthday would also fall on Shabbat.
As Christians we have a sense of the Sabbath as a day of rest, but we don't really take it quite as seriously as observant Jews. On Friday night, after the third star could be seen clearly in the night sky, we were treated to a Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem. The traditional prayers were prayed, we broke Challah and drank wine together. It was a community evening and the start of the day of rest.
Earlier on, during his lecture on the conflict, Dr Goodman had talked for a moment about the concept of Shabbat. In Exodus we are told that Shabbat is a day of rest, as we imitate the creator. In Deutoronomy a new dimension is added. Shabbat is not just a day of rest, but a day to let go of control.
This idea hit me hard and began to take on a life of its own in my imagination. As we entered into Shabbat I contemplated the fact that I am on Sabbatical myself, sabbatical takes its meaning for the word Sabbath, or Shabbat.
What does this mean? It means that my sabbatical is a time to rest, but also to give up control. Back home other people have taken on responsibilities for the parish, Monica and Noreen working with Fran and Mike to make sure things keep going. I can worry a lot, it is hard to let go for me. It was wonderful to begin the first part of my sabbatical with an extended reflection on what sabbath means.
As we entered more deeply into the sabbath we were taken on an outing, to the desert where we toured Herod's palace at Masada and the Dead Sea. It was a wonderful way to spend a Birthday. We heard about the building of the palace on a mountaintop in the desert, and also how it was used as part of the Jewish resistance to Roman aggression centuries later. Finally I floated on the Dead Sea, a once in a lifetime experience.
My day of rest/birthday was busy, but very enjoyable.
From the UK, Matthew loved US culture from the first time he picked up a Fantastic Four Comic when he was 12.