A special message on a special Shabbat | Worship

By Glen Pickus | Oct 05, 2016

If you want to understand what being Jewish entails, start with observing Shabbat (the Sabbath).

That’s what rabbis frequently tell people considering conversion.

Despite its simplicity, Shabbat is the most important Jewish holiday, as Jews imitate the Divine act by stepping back from the material word, ceasing work, sanctifying relationships with loved ones and the awe of creation.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to you given one of the Ten Commandments states we should “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.”

However, all Shabbatot (plural for Shabbat) are not created equal.

Some Shabbatot are special because of their place on the calendar when they coincide with a Jewish holiday.

This coming Shabbat from sunset on Friday, Oct. 7, to sunset on Saturday, Oct. 8, is special because it occurs during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

It is called “Shabbat Shuvah,” or Shabbat of Repentance.

Observances on these unique Shabbatot differ from typical Shabbat observance with special customs and variations on the usual liturgy and prophetic readings.

Temple Beth Or’s Rabbi Jessica Kessler Marshall will be delivering a distinct Shabbat Shuvah sermon during services, which start at 10 a.m. this Saturday, Oct. 8, at the synagogue located at 3215 Lombard Ave. in Everett.

At the service she will talk about the lack of safety controls on gun possession.

One of the most emotional prayers said on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is Unataneh Tokef (“Let Us Speak of the Awesomeness”).

The prayer asks provocative questions about what our fate might be for the coming year.

It asks, “Who shall live and who shall die? Who by fire and who by water? Who by famine and who by thirst? Who will live in harmony and who will be harried? Who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer?”

The Rabbi’s sermon is inspired by a Huffington Post blog post written by Rabbi Joseph Meszler (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-joseph-meszler/who-by-bullet-a-message-f_b_8137462.html).

Rabbi Meszler suggests the text of Unataneh Tokef could easily be rewritten in 2016 to ask, “Who by semi-automatic weapon and who by unlicensed handgun?”

Rabbi Marshall stresses that Unataneh Tokef reaffirms our fragility and how much is beyond our control.

Jewish teachings address some of today’s basic gun control issues, even though they pre-date the Second Amendment and the invention of the assault rifle by thousands of years.

Jewish tradition teaches that we are entitled to defend ourselves and even take a life to save our own or someone else’s.

The Talmud teaches, “If someone comes to kill you, kill them first.”

Yet, Jewish tradition also recognizes the danger of allowing weapons to end up in the wrong hands.

In the Talmud it is written, “One should not sell [to those with criminal intentions] either weapons or accessories of weapons, nor should one make any weapon for them.”

This Shabbat Shuvah, Temple Beth Or members and guests will hear a suggestion for repentance.

That suggestion is, maybe we should throw away our inaction and negligence in not pressing for common-sense gun control measures that would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and those with criminal intentions.

It will be a special suggestion on a special Shabbat.

Glen Pickus is a member of Temple Beth Or, the Jewish synagogue serving Snohomish County. The synagogue is at 3215 Lombard Ave. For more information, visit www.templebethor.org.

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