Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg, poet and Zionist ideologue: 1856-1927) is quoted as saying, “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”

This statement is part of the key to the great puzzle of our generation: how to keep Jews Jewish? We have survived exile and genocide, only to find that assimilation and a lack of Jewish knowledge have become an even greater threat.

The Talmud (Shabbat 10b) states that Shabbat was God’s precious and guarded treasure, which was given to the Jews as a gift. It was His day of rest, and He shared it with the Jewish people. Shabbat was the day to be dedicated to building a relationship with the Divine, and reconnecting with the spiritual after a week of toiling in the physical world.

One of the greatest benefits of Shabbat has always been family and community. On Shabbat people attend synagogue together, mingle with their neighbors, pray together and connect with each other.

As Jews began to assimilate and the world became more “savvy,” the idea of a day of rest fell out of favor. Either people were too busy with their work, too busy with their play or too worried about being different or missing something.

By abandoning Shabbat, people relinquished their precious connection to their community (and to the Divine). And without a connection to their community, Jews increasingly disappeared from the Jewish radar.

This is the power of Shabbat Across America/Canada – celebrated this year on Friday night March 20, 2009. Synagogues across the continent are readying themselves for this grand evening by inviting Jews from all backgrounds to come celebrate their identity, to join in with the community and to reconnect with their spirituality.

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