Jewish lecture series focuses on Sabbath

Posted Friday, May 20th, 2011

Rabbi Benny Zippel adjusts his yarmulke.

"Let me show you something," he said as he leans over to point out words in the liturgy on the desk of his Salt Lake City office .

"Come let us go welcome the Sabbath because it is the source of blessing," it read in both English and Hebrew.

The Rohr Jewish Institute (JLI) will present "Oasis in Time: The Gift of Shabbat in a 24/7 World" at the Chabad Community Center every Monday. The course began May 9 and will last for 4 more weeks. The six-session course will focus on the Jewish Shabbat, finding inner peace and making workdays more productive.

"I see this course as Judaism's secrets to serenity," said Rabbi Zippel, who will teach the course.

The class runs parallel with about 400 Jewish communities around the world as part of the JLI network.

Rabbi Zippel came to Salt Lake City 19 years ago, only two years after he was ordained. He has been teaching with the JLI since 2001.

Two dozen people convened to the Chabad Center for the Rabbi's instruction last Monday. The session focused on the inner meaning of preparing for the Sabbath. Class members discussed real-life situations with Sabbath observance and shared some activities they do to personally prepare for the holy day.

"The more we are able to invest in it, the more we are able to derive pleasure from the Sabbath."

Jewish belief is based on understanding that observance of the Sabbath is the source of all blessing, said Rabbi Zippel in an interview.

He referred to the Jewish Sabbath as a time where individuals disconnect themselves from all endeavors that enslave them throughout the week and compared the day to pressing a reset button on a machine.

A welcome prayer over wine or grape juice from the men and candle lighting from the women invokes the Jewish Sabbath on Friday at sundown.

The Sabbath ends with a ceremony called "Havdalla," which means "separation" in Hebrew. The closing ritual separates the sacredness of the Sabbath from the mundane nature of the other six days.

Though the classes cover Jewish mannerisms and rituals, the class delves into the deeper spiritual aspects of Sabbath worship.

"The idea of the Sabbath is to raise oneself spiritually, emotionally and psychologically to a higher level of awareness where the minutia of this world doesn't play that great of a role anymore," Rabbi Zippel said.

Though a lax Sabbath observance is a problem in the Jewish community, the Jewish leader has high hopes for the future.

"I personally see an increasing amount of people who discover the need for a period of raising themselves to a higher degree of awareness, which leads them to a greater observance of the Sabbath," he said.

The similarities between Jewish and Mormon Sabbath may raise interest to many in the Salt Lake area. The course promotes family strength by emphasizing spending time in the home on the sacred day. Rabbi Zippel believes no one knows this better than LDS people.

Luz Teicher, a human biology teacher at Salt Lake Community College, raved about her enlightenment since the class began.

"The real deep theological meaning to me is not 'rest,' " Teicher said. "Sure you rest, but that's not it. Shabbat is a gift."

She later added that she is more conscious not to waste that gift.

Aimee Carter takes a unique perspective on the class. She was raised LDS but left at 14 years old. She didn't pursue religion until her 20s, when she began studying Judaism.

"A lot of people, including my family, see the day as restrictions," Carter said. "(The class) gives you a new perspective."

Registration for the class is required and can be done at

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