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Just One Shabbos

Yonoson Rosenblum

The idea seems so simple but it took a leading rabbinic innovator to promote it: Get every Jew in one country to celebrate just one Shabbos, thus bringing a love of Yiddishkeit and the gift of Shabbos to all. The results exceeded Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s wildest expectations. Could this be the start of something huge?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A man and his wife, along with their five-year-old son, walked three miles back and forth to shul inJohannesburg. Another mother made an even greater effort: She walked five miles to shul with her two daughters and then gave up the comforts of home to properly honor the Shabbos Queen. In tinyPort Elizabeth, a full quarter of the Jewish population, 131 souls, joined in a festive Friday night feast and 15 made their beds where they ate.

Like Jews of Temple times walking to the Beis HaMikdash for a festival, Jews from every corner of South Africa left their homes (and their car keys on the kitchen table), gathering in shuls and around Shabbos tables on Parshas Lech Lecha for an experiment that has no precedent in modern Jewish history. It was called “The Shabbos Project,” and it was but the latest act of innovation for a community long noted for its traditionalism and kindness, and lately for the creativity and energy of its chief rabbi.

The idea was simple: Encourage every Jew inSouth Africato celebrate one Shabbos. And not just a friendly Shabbos dinner where nonreligious participants would be welcomed even if they drove to their host’s doorstep. Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, 42, who has led the South African community since 2005, decided early on that the Shabbos must be observed in its entirety.

“Keeping Shabbos completely was crucial to the success of the Shabbos Project,” explains Rabbi Goldstein. “The kedushah, energy, and emotional power of the experience depends on doing the mitzvah exactly as Hashem instructs. When Torah is diluted, it loses its spiritual power. South Africans like a challenge, and responded to my call to keep Shabbos in all its details accordingly.”

Chazal tell us that if all Jews would celebrate but two Shabbosim in succession properly, Mashiach would come (Shabbos 118b). In organizing such a momentous event, Rabbi Goldstein and his community are in the business of nothing less than preparing the final Redemption.

 

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