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Shabbat Guidelines

Our Shabbat

Adat Shalom Shabbat and Festivals Guide

Guiding Principle: Adat Shalom is an unusually diverse Jewish community. We are home for a broad spectrum of Jewish tradition, and we are committed to welcoming everyone, no matter his or her perspective. At Adat Shalom it is our tradition to see Shabbat as a “day apart.” As part of our shared communal experience at the synagogue, we encourage people to treat this as sacred time for worship, study, celebration and creative endeavors for the sake of pure enjoyment. The overarching goal of this Guide is to allow all of us comfortably to share our time together at Adat Shalom on Shabbat. The intent of this Guide is to clarify and enrich–but not alter–the basic principles ratified by the community in 1992. This Guide is not meant to affect members’ individual decisions about their observance in their homes or outside Adat Shalom. It is meant to suggest a framework for deepening our collective spiritual practice.

Creating a Shabbat atmosphere for worship, spiritual practice, study and celebration

  • Gatherings on Shabbat for spiritual and religious practice, education, and social connection, are highly valued. We encourage our members to arrange formal, communal business meetings on days other than Shabbat.
  • For some, the use of personal electronic devices can be a distraction from the spirit of the day. In order to honor the communal goal to create a peaceful observance of Shabbat, we encourage members and visitors to avoid the use of personal electronic devices when and where the community is gathered for worship, spiritual practice, study, oneg and celebration. Cell phones may be set to vibrate for those concerned about emergencies. Emergency calls can be taken outside or in parts of our building where they will not disturb these gatherings.
  • It is our custom to avoid the use of money wherever the community is gathered on Shabbat by arranging to conduct financial transactions prior to or after Shabbat.
  • It is a long-standing Adat Shalom custom that photography and videography are requested not to be taken in the lobby and social hall during communal gatherings. During services, photography and videography are allowed inside the sanctuary only from behind the glass of the sound room or via the camera installed in the sanctuary.

The Guide will be reviewed periodically as other technologies emerge that might impact the Shabbat experience at Adat Shalom.

As community members, we will assist in implementing these suggested practices in respectful and considerate ways. This Guide should not be invoked to embarrass another person. Our community will work together to educate and support one another as we embrace the opportunity each week to take a communal deep breath and appreciate the gift of Shabbat.

As always, we encourage dialogue among members, clergy and the community leaders to discuss, learn and ultimately discern whether a communal activity honors the spirit of Shabbat as affirmed in this document.

* Where Shabbat is stated, this also refers to the Pilgrimage Festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot as well as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Basic Shabbat Principles

“Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art.”1

When we think of keeping Shabbat, many of us envision restraints on our lives and many annoying prohibitions. In focusing on the forbidden acts, though, we miss the “blessings of delight,”2 and the “sense of unutterable peace, soul-calm, and tranquility”3 that Shabbat traditionally has offered the Jewish people.

Shabbat traditionally has been envisioned as a day of creative rest, a sanctuary in time designed to help us rise above the pressures of daily existence, to experience self- fulfillment and the realization of what makes life worthwhile. In addition, Shabbat is envisioned as a day during which human beings and nature are to live together harmoniously, a day in which each of us can be most connected to our inner selves, our family, our community, and our physical environment.

We acknowledge that the traditional observance of Shabbat presents the modern Jew with many dilemmas. For example, the Orthodox prohibition against riding or driving is difficult for many to observe. Similarly, a basic tenet of Shabbat is to refrain from labor. However, some of us must work. Yet, as a community, we still seek to keep Shabbat holy, a special day apart from the rest. At Adat Shalom, we are committed to respecting those whose Shabbat observance conforms with traditional practice, but we also encourage an acceptance of new forms of Shabbat observance. We believe that our congregation can provide a context for members to develop an ongoing and evolving relationship with Shabbat.

The Adat Shalom Shabbat Study Group outlined a number of Shabbat guidelines, stated positively rather than in the language of prohibition. These guidelines are intended to serve our community in ensuring that Shabbat will continue to be a potent influence in sanctifying and beautifying Jewish life.4These include:

  • recognizing and welcoming the arrival of Shabbat on Friday night. Examples include saying the blessings over the wine and challah; lighting Shabbat candles; eating a festive meal with family and friends; reflecting during a moment of silence on Shabbat’s arrival; wishing someone a “Shabbat Shalom“;
  • attending communal worship to connect with other Jews celebrating Shabbat and to take advantage of the opportunity for prayer, study, and reflection;
  • participating in communal gatherings on Shabbat. The Shabbat spirit emanates from the special feelings that arise from unfettered time spent with family, friends, and community. Examples of ways to engender this spirit include (a) periodic one-day retreats, or Shabbatons, following the Onegs, (b) discussion groups; (c) sharing a Shabbat meal together, (d) short group hikes; and (e) spending time in each other’s homes;
  • enhancing one’s self-fulfillment through creative self-expression and healthful play. Such activities as noncompetitive athletics and hobbies would best be pursued at times other than those reserved for communal worship;
  • reflecting on Judaism and Jewish topics. Reading the Torah portion, Jewish texts, or Jewish literature are just some examples;
  • facilitating celebration of Shabbat in the home. For example, we encourage participants at our Shabbat pot luck dinners to find a way to review the meaning — religious or personal — of the home rituals to help those who are not familiar with them appreciate their significance. In addition, the singing of Zimrot, listening to Jewish music, and dancing are ways to bring the joy of Shabbat into the home; and
  • enhancing our appreciation of nature and God’s universe. We can do this formally with outdoor services and meditations on the environment and informally by taking nature hikes, going to the zoo, or sitting outside.

On Shabbat, the good is not to have but to be. Therefore, on this day, we want to emphasize the value of each human life by relating to one another without transacting business when at all possible.

We at Adat Shalom encourage each member to develop an ongoing appreciation for the blessings of Shabbat by making it comfortable to enhance one’s exposure to traditional customs as well as to experiment with creative and new forms of Shabbat observance.


1. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Shabbat: Its Meaning for Modern Man (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966).

2. Ibid.

3. Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld, and Sharon Suwfeld, eds., The First Jewish Catalogue (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1973).

4. Reconstructionist Press, A Guide to Jewish Ritual (New York: Reconstructionist Press, 1962).

These guidelines, adopted by the Adat Shalom board on 19 April 1992 (16 Nissan 5752) and then by the congregation as a whole on 14 June 1992 (13 Sivan 5752), are the product of a process that included a communal study of traditional sources and subsequent in-depth special study by topical subgroups. The subgroups formulated draft statements of principles and more detailed guidelines. Members of our congregation were invited to provide input on these guidelines throughout the year-long process.