This has been a very interesting week of formation for us, because we had the privilege of having two of our sisters with us, who so generously gave us time and formation to broaden important issues in our learning.
Our first session was with Sr. Maureena P. Fritz, who guided us through the meaning of Shabbat in Jewish tradition. In this regard I continue to reflect.
For us as Catholics, it is easy to define the Shabbat as the rest day for Jews and we also make the connection with our Sunday… Of course, we do not have the same formality and seriousness.
We need to understand why there has been some misunderstandings around the differences. This is probably due to a misunderstanding about what is “the day consecrated to the Lord”.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”(Exodus 20.8)
“It will be a day of rest, a solemn rest, to humble their souls; it is a perpetual statute.” (Leviticus 16, 31)
Echoing the ideas fully explained by Sr. Maureena, the Shabbat was first kept by God himself; not as a day of Rest from overwork but as a time to delight in its creation; to show his love and contentment with everything created so far, but especially with humans. An exclusive day to be formally betrothed with him – God and humans. This ensures that this renewal is saved for eternity, and the renewal is the commitment of love.
The understanding then is that Shabbat is a state of peace between humankind and everything that surrounds them. So leaving everything, physical work, daily responsibilities, problems or worries, in order to keep silence and to find that closeness with God is the end and reason for our life.
At the same time it is a day set aside to meet as a family, to enjoy being with those with whom we often share less, precisely for the entire daily routine. But it is in that coexistence with others that the sanctification of this day begins. When we attend religious services together or recite the prayers, enjoying the company of others in our life. We also show our love and gratitude for everything, with which we are blessed.
Sr. Anne, on the other hand, taught us about the festival of Tu Bishvat as well as the symbols of Jewish prayer.
And it seems important to me to rescue what we should learn and imitate from this extraordinary people. Examining some of elements necessary for prayer, we can see how each of them is a constant reminder of the presence of God in his or her life and the position as a creature, with sincere heart should give thanks to the Creator.
For the Jew every component of these elements, which can be garments or instruments (Tzit Tzit, Kippah, Tallit, mezuzah or Phylacteries among others), has a special meaning. And the reverence with which they are used is impressive; they are not merely decorative or amulets, as we often use some of our religious items. They are precepts made by God as a sign of their belonging and in this way they are part of their daily lives. How many of us can say that we have the same reverence for what is truly sacred in our church?
Similarly speaking with regard to the festivals that are well kept by them, we find Tu Bishvat or “The New Year for Trees” which has a special set of customs full of meaning.
One of them is to eat fruits of the seven species for which Israel is praised:
“… a land of wheat, barley, vineyards, fig trees and pomegranate, a land of olive trees and honey [of dates]” (Deuteronomy 8,8).
It is a day of blessing and gratitude, currently with a tone of environmental awareness, trees are planted in celebration. But the teaching of its tradition (the mitzvah of Bal Tashjit) is also remembered: Do not destroy!
So I ask again, how aware are we of our connection with nature, that the earth is a source of life and that it is up to us to preserve our resource?
The more we can respond, the more actions we can take in this respect!
Helen NDS, novice
Ein Karem 01.12.2019