Throughout the thousands of years of its history, Shabbat has always been a day of song and gladness both in the synagogue and in the Jewish home. According to our tradition, Shabbat casts its radiant glow over the whole week.
The name of the seventh day of the week is derived from the Hebrew—Shabbat—which means "rest". Not only is it a day of rest, it is also a day of holiness—a day when we should strive to put off the cares and material pursuits of life and devote ourselves to the refreshment of the spirit. It is chiefly in the home circle that the Sabbath is seen with all its great power of transforming drab workday life into a joyous spiritual experience. In the home, the table represents an altar, the sanctity of which is heightened by the lighted candles, the kiddush cup and challah. The home celebration was always traditionally emphasized. That is why the traditional Friday evening service is an early service of song and praise to God—to allow worshipers to return home and celebrate Shabbat with family.
The earlier time for Friday evening services and the format for Kabbalat Shabbat services have proven so very popular in many congregations throughout the world. Many Reform congregations now observe the practice of holding a Kabbalat Shabbat service, if not every week, at least once a month.
Kabbalat Shabbat is the traditional name given to the Friday evening service. The term means "welcome to the Sabbath"—and the lively blend of melodies and selections from the Psalms that constitute the Kabbalat Shabbat service will, no doubt, energize all who attend. The service will last approximately 45 minutes. Everyone in the congregation is encouraged to attend—young and old alike.
Shabbat has come. All the week we have worked. All the week we have lived in the illusion that power over the world is in our own hands. This has been a veil hiding from our eyes the truth that ultimate power is, indeed, not in our hands. On Shabbat we cease our work. As a result, the veil is lifted. We can begin to get a glimpse of the world as it can be at its best. This is a moment which must fill us with wonder and joy. It must awaken our hearts toward that spiritual contentment which is the secret of Shabbat rest. Shabbat is a great spiritual experience. Be a part of it.
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