By A. Schreiber
I can recall a memory from my youth, walking alongside my father on a Friday night on our way home from shul and dwelling on a well-known saying of our sages: Chazal (in Midrash and the Yerushalmi in Taanis) say that if all the Jews would keep just one Shabbos in its entirety, Mashiach would come. Even then I began to ponder the plausibility of such an eventuality. This thought and those same feelings of futility have revisited my consciousness a number of times over the years.
So when I learned of the Shabbos Project, spearheaded by South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, and his rebbetzin, and pulled together piece by painstaking piece by the selfless and dedicated members of the united South African Jewish community, I felt a newfound sense of optimism that we can do this after all. We can unite the world in keeping Shabbos and thereby herald our long-awaited redemption.
Thinking about this in the context of today’s geopolitical tumultuousness, it all makes that much more sense. We are living through unprecedented times. The world’s superpowers are tenuously teetering at the brink of war. A relatively small group of radical Islamic fundamentalists are driving their agenda to hunt down and execute anyone whose belief system is in contravention to theirs. This, they believe, is the fulfillment of Sharia law. So there has been, in a sense, an increase in redemptive fervor and people’s need to belong to something bigger, something game-changing.
In a video circulating on the Internet, I saw snippets of a tour that a reporter was taken on by leading members of the Islamic State. I was shocked to learn that people the world over have signed up to join the radical fundamentalist movement. This just further puts into stark relief our own mission statement, which is to reach out with a sense of inclusivism, to our fellow Jews, inviting them to experience the joy and euphoria of a Shabbos kept together. If the agenda on the global stage is to exclude everyone and anyone who looks different or acts different, it is our duty to shower with love members of our community who for long have been neglected or have isolated themselves from the communal Jewish family.
Shabbos Parashas Noach has been set aside for the world Shabbos Project, which falls out this year on October 24. Under the banner of “Keeping It Together,” Jews in 170 cities and 30 countries across the globe will keep Shabbos, in many cases for the very first time, together. The Five Towns/Far Rockaway chapter of the Shabbos Project has been spearheaded by Rabbi Yaakov Trump, assistant rabbi of YILC in Cedarhurst, in cooperation with Rabbi Ariel Rakovsky, rabbi of the Irving Place minyan in Woodmere, as well as the many partners who have dedicated their time, organization skills, and resources towards piecing this project together. The weekend will be kicked off on Thursday evening with a massive women’s challah-baking event presided over by a world-renowned inspiring orator, who will explain the significance of challah, specifically the mitzvah of hafrashas challah.
The Shabbos itself will be observed throughout the community at each shul. Residents are encouraged to reach out to as many unaffiliated or disenfranchised Jews, inviting them to spend this one Shabbos together. Committee members have been contacting community rabbis encouraging this project to be addressed in their weekly sermons in the weeks leading up to this project. As this is a grassroots effort, its measure of success will be commensurate with the amount of public cooperation.
King David wrote in Psalms, “From my enemies, I have learned to more wisely execute your mitzvos”—“Mei’oyvai tichakmeini mitzvosecha.” Chazal explain that the word oyev refers specifically to Yishmael, which would be the nation causing this great upheaval in the Middle East and throughout the world. If there was ever a time that we could learn from the limitless dedication that our enemies expend to see their agenda through, it would be now in order to build up—in defiance of their attempts to destroy.
The importance of people getting involved on every level cannot be overstated. With roughly two months from now until that Shabbos, there is much work that needs to get done. The inherent connection that Shabbos has with the imminent redemption is that it is equal with the entire Torah. With one Shabbos, we could reunite the Jews, G‑d, and Torah and fulfill the purpose of creation. Please visit the local Shabbos Project website at www.theshabbosproject5tfr.com and get involved today!