January 6, 2005
‘A Day Apart’—Together
Keeping its commitment to promoting "homemade Judaism," The Shalom Hartmann Institute has published "A Day Apart, Shabbat at Home" ($24.95), a step-by-step guidebook containing everything from helpful hints to spiritual reflections on how to make Shabbat meaningful.
Noam Sachs Zion, who authored the institute's much-hailed "A Different Night: The Family Participation Haggadah" (1997) and a similar guide to Chanukah in 2000, called "A Different Light," collaborated for this one with Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer, who teaches Bible and liturgy at the University of Judaism's Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and the Fingerhut School of Education.
"A Day Apart" is a colorful patchwork of art and photos, and the accompanying text is just as vibrant. The book is organized by Shabbat's rituals and activities -- from baking challah and preparing for Shabbat, to blessing the children, singing and enjoying the three meals, all the way through to Havdalah at the day's end.
Each section contains both the basics -- the words of the blessing for instance, and a how-to guide -- and the more sublime, such as reflections from sources as diverse as the Talmud to a modern astronomer on the unifying power of taking a deep breath.
Thoughts and prayers from great Jewish and non-Jewish thinkers traverse the pages, as well as "Parent-Child Corners" with practical ideas for making Shabbat peaceful for the entire family -- a pre-Shabbat repast, for instance, to stave of hunger-driven irritation during the dinner rituals.
The book, though chaotic in its bright colors and dozens of little chunks of text, is actually well-organized and easy to navigate, once you get to know it.
With its step-by-step guides to rituals, "A Day Apart" is suitable for beginners. At the same time, the insider's insights into routines that might go wrong or grow stale can be a useful tool for shaking even veteran Shabbat observers into a more pleasant, meaningful and restful day of rest.