Mo’adim – Shabbat, Holidays and Shared Commemorations

If we live as isolated Jews, we can invite local friends into our homes to celebrate Shabbat and various holidays in our own ways and at our own times.

1) Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) comes at the end of each week, but it is actually the most special day on the Jewish calendar.  It represents everything Judaism stands for, and is a weekly time for us to celebrate who and what we are with friends, family and community.  It is an opportunity to set one day apart from the regularized routine of the rest of the week. That day can be set to emphasize joy, meaning, connection, heritage, community and learning.

A specific section of the Torah is assigned to each Shabbat.  The weekly Shabbat Torah reading can suggest a universalized theme that the entire small local group can focus on for discussion. Or the group could focus on the specific one-seventh of the Torah reading that Hevrat Menorah is connecting with that Shabbat.

The group may instead decide to discuss one teaching from Pirke Avoth each week.

2) The annual Jewish calendar holds a number of Jewish holidays, festivals and seasons, each of which is an opportunity to celebrate, learn and build community.

On a particular Jewish holiday we may gather our friends to share the moment with us and with the entire Jewish People around the world.  If you are meeting before or after the holiday, you can emphasize preparing for the holiday or a general theme of the holiday.  Each of our holidays has many spiritual themes with universal applicability and so can speak to everyone’s situation whether or not they are Jewish.

If you happen to belong to a synagogue and want to participate in the celebrations of your congregation, but also want to intensify the spiritual experience of the season, you may want to focus on a home celebration to precede the holiday itself, as part of your own holiday preparation.

Some time prior to each Jewish holiday, you may invite some friends and family together in our own local area to help each other prepare spiritually for the upcoming holiday season. This combines the practices of Torah Study, Shabbat and Holidays, and Connecting to Community.

A list of some spiritual themes associated with each holiday:

Lighting the Hanukkah Menorah (or “Lighting the Shammash” if before Hanukkah).

  • Let your light shine.

A Tu B’Shvat Seder (or “Roots and Branches” before Tu B’Shvat).

  • You are connected to something larger than yourself.

Multiplying Happiness (“Marbim b’Simchah”) on or before Purim.

  • Rejoice in who you are and what you have.

A Passover Seder (or “Searching Out the Hametz” before Passover).

  • We can overcome what holds us back.

Lag BaOmer

  • Recall the bad times, but pause on the note of  joy and hope.

Shavuot  (or “Preparing for the Mountain” before Shavuot).

  • We each have a teaching and a calling. How do we discern it?

“Acknowledging the darkness amidst the Light” on or before

Tisha B’Av.

  • It is summer, but we acknowledge the darkest times and move through them towards consolation and hope.

Selichot program during Elul before Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur

  • Overcoming regrets; finding reconciliation and forgiveness.

Community visits during Sukkot; and Simchat Torah celebration.

  • Teachings of joy and Gratitude.

The Jewish Reconstructionist Press publishes A Guide to Jewish Practice  that puts forth ways to approach each of these moments.