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Shabbat Across America showcases unifying Jewish event

By Linda Linonis

Friday, March 6, 2015



Shabbat Across America highlights an event that unifies the Jewish people: the Sabbath. The weekly religious observance begins at sundown Friday and ends an hour after sundown Saturday.

“Traditionally, there are services Friday nights and Saturday morning and afternoon services,” said Rabbi Saul Oresky of Congregation Ohev Tzedek-Shaarei Torah, 5245 Glenwood Ave.

The synagogue is a Shabbat Across America site, a campaign sponsored in America and Canada by the National Jewish Outreach Program. The rabbi said the synagogue signed up to participate in the event planned next Friday.

The rabbi, who came to the Boardman congregation in August, said the temple does not have regular Friday night services but conducts Saturday morning services. “The Friday nights were discontinued,” he said, adding he is hoping to start them again.

Rabbi Oresky said the Shabbat Across America event will include a Kabbalat Shabbat service, dinner and community gathering. Mollie Kessler and family will host the event at their home. “It reflects the home-based ritual,” he said.

The rabbi said the service will include “psalms to welcome” the Sabbath. There also will be zemirot (Sabbath songs).

Elements of the Sabbath are candles, challah bread and wine. The observance will include the lighting of candles and making a blessing over wine, the Kiddush. “The woman of the house often makes the blessing and lights the candles,” Rabbi Oresky said. “You tend to use the rituals you grew up with.”

The rabbi explained that after the candles are lighted, the woman makes a circular motion with both hands in front of her body. “That’s to bring the light into yourself,” he said. Then, he said, she covers her eyes while she says or sings the blessing. “This is to bring the light of joy and the spirit of the Sabbath into yourself.”

There also is a blessing (hamotzi) over the challah (a braided egg bread), which is covered with a special cloth. Phyllis Oresky, the rabbi’s wife, said the cloth usually has significance in the family. A gift from friends, cloths from Israel and another that was an engagement gift are among “the most meaningful” in her family, she said. The candles that the Oreskys use at home are from her grandmother. “It makes it special,” Phyllis Oresky said.

The rabbi said the bread hearkens back to animal and grain sacrifices in the Jewish temples that were destroyed in 568 B.C.E. (before the common era) by the Babylonians and in 70 C.E. (common era) by the Romans. “The challah symbolizes the bread that was displayed then,” he said.

There also is a blessing over wine or grape juice and ritual rinsing of hands with water from a becher, a cup with two handles.

The rabbi’s wife said the Sabbath “is the nicest meal of the week.” Chicken is often the main course along with soup with matza balls. There also may be salad, fish or pasta. Those attending the Shabbat Across America event will contribute pareve side dishes — that is, neither meat nor dairy dishes.

“For me, the Sabbath signifies a day of rest, a holy day,” Phyllis Oresky said.

The Shabbat Across America event, the rabbi said, “is intended to bring people together.”