Lech Lecha is the parsha of The Shabbat Project. It is also the parsha that launched Jewish history, which began with a call to embrace a life of blessing; as the Torah says, “Go for you from your land … and I will bless you and I will make your name great and you will be a blessing”. Abraham and Sarah were called to a mission of blessing. The Shabbat Project, like parshat lech lecha, is a call to embrace blessing – the blessings of Jewish unity and the blessings of Shabbat.
True Jewish unity is a blessing because it brings us closer to one another and allows us to enjoy the benefits of support, love and care of those around us. When we are unified we can face any challenge and seize all opportunities. The Shabbat Project is a moment of sublime unity, which brings together more than one million Jews in 1 300 cities, in 95 countries, across 10 languages, from all backgrounds, ideologies, levels of observance and affiliation. It is the blessing of Jewish unity which comes from love and choice, not one forced on us by external forces of enmity.
Shabbat is called “the source of all blessing”. It brings so much blessing into our lives. It brings the blessing of family as we reconnect with our loved ones in the sacred and tranquil space of the Shabbat experience. For thousands of years Shabbat has held Jewish families together in love and loyalty. Strong and loving families have been the source of the strength of the Jewish people. The oxygen of healthy families is uninterrupted time together, to talk, share and bond. Shabbat creates the shared time and space for parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, family and friends to connect with each other in a real and loving way.
Shabbat also brings the blessing of the pleasures of this world – of eating delicious food, of sleeping and of restful walks. It gives us the blessing of freedom from the relentless demands of daily life, refreshing and redirecting our lives. Not being able to drive a car on Shabbos may seem restrictive but it frees us to enjoy a day without frantic travel, traffic and errands; it enables us to take a leisurely stroll with family and friends. Not being able to go to work means that we can enjoy a day without appointments and commitments; we can take the day off to spend with family, community and Hashem, recharging ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Shabbat is a day filled with the blessing of meaning. It is not just a “Jewish Sunday” and about the pursuit of leisure. It is a day filled with meaningful good deeds, like spending time with family, going to shul, enjoying the festive meals and the singing, sharing words of Torah around the Shabbat table and engaging with the community. Shabbat brings the blessing of the beauty and pleasure of a spiritual connection to G-d, which is nurtured through the experiences of prayer and song on the day. It brings the blessing of connection to ourselves. In the pressure and rush and distraction of the modern world we even lose touch with ourselves. On Shabbat we have the blessed opportunity to reconnect and to rediscover who we are.
Shabbat gives us the blessing of faith, which gives us a spirit of strength and confidence to face the uncertainties, challenges and opportunities of life. On Shabbat we stop working for a livelihood. This requires a leap of faith. By doing so we remind ourselves that ultimately we cannot control outcomes and that we are in G-d’s hands. On Shabbat we learn to embrace and even celebrate this.
Shabbat brings the blessing of belonging to the Jewish people. Shabbos holds the Jewish people together: it unites Jewish communities around the world. It gives a natural unifying rhythm to the Jewish week. It gives the blessing of connection to where we come from and where we are going, connected to our past, present and future. Shabbat connects us with the great events of the past: the creation of the world, the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Shabbat hints at the blessing of the future at the time of the final redemption.
The Shabbat Project seeks to bring the power of Jewish unity and Shabbat to the centre of Jewish life, and thereby to create a fountain of overflowing blessing for us all. Let’s join hands with Jews around the world this Shabbat as we prepare to embrace our blessings.