I don’t actually know any more of the poem, it is of course to do with the gunpowder plot and the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
This year an edict from the Houses of Parliament certainly gave us reason to remember November 5th – the beginning of the second national lockdown and for the time being the closing of our shuls.
It was also the launch of the 3rd Shabbaton at Home. Last night at 8:00pm, with Chief Rabbi Mirvis, Chief Rabbi Goldstein, Ambassador Hotovely, Rav Doron Perez and Yishai Ribo and joined by thousands from across the country – we got the Shabbaton off to the best possible start!
I remember the first Shabbat of lockdown, how my children were worried about how we would manage without shul or having friends over – we made a shabbaton at home for the family – and look where that went!
When we gather tomorrow morning in the lounge for shul at home, we will reminisce to March, April and May when we did that week after week. In fact, the last Shabbaton at Home was 23rd May, when we were still davening at home, our garden minyan didn’t start till the beginning of June.
Yet, I hope that many of us will still feel connected to our communities as we jointly participate in the Shabbaton. The messages from the communal Rabbis and the stories of impactful Shabbatot will hopefully make people feel that shul connection, even though we are at home.
Last night, Chief Rabbi Goldstein spoke passionately about the importance and the centrality of the Jewish Home, I have written on these pages’ numerous times that the future of the Jewish people depends on the strength of our homes. Here is what he said:
‘The Jewish home is what we are focusing on, and that’s of course what is behind this initiative of Mizrachi UK, the Shabbaton at home. Why home? Because actually that is where Jewish history is written. We see that so powerfully when it comes to the book of Bereishit, which sets out the history of our people and indeed the history of humankind and it is so interesting the way that God chose to tell that history.
He did not tell the history of the nations of this world. He did not tell the history through the great political and military events. He told it through the homes of the founding fathers and mothers of our people and so the book of Bereishit is the story of the families in the homes of Avraham and Sarah, of Yitzhak and Rifka, Yaacov, Leah and Rachel and so it is really about what happens in their homes that lays the foundations.
We are forced by circumstance by what is happening in this global pandemic to focus on our homes and that becomes a God-given opportunity to say let us make our homes the centre of our lives, and what is at the centre of the Jewish home – Shabbat.
Shabbat has everything to make our homes truly Jewish homes because Shabbat reminds us that God created this world, that he created all of us. Shabbat reminds us that God took us out of Egypt, Shabbat reminds us that we live our lives with purpose, Shabbat reminds us of how important it is for us as families to connect, for parents to bless their children, for parents and children to talk to each other around the table to put aside all of the distractions of daily life so that we can truly connect.
We remind ourselves on Shabbat who we are, where we come from and where we are headed. So Shabbat is what makes our homes – Jewish homes.
That is what we are celebrating this Shabbat project, that is what we are celebrating with this Shabbaton at home, the idea that the Jewish home is the centre of Jewish history and that the centre and the heart of the Jewish home is Shabbat. It has within it, the spirit of inspiration, of education, of togetherness, of kindness and compassion of love, of connection for every part of what we need for our lives.’
So I urge all of you to embrace the Shabbaton at Home and the Shabbat project this Shabbat. To embrace the opportunities and the feeling of togetherness when you realise that 75 communities up and down the country are participating in the same Shabbaton – just at their own home.
So enjoy the reading, the quizzes, the stories and the divrei Torah.
Then, please join us for a wonderful finale, at 6:30pm Motzei Shabbat for The Great Shabbaton Quiz.
Tens of thousands of people are participating in the Shabbaton but ONLY 2000 can play so you need to REGISTER. Also there you can get your 3-digit code to enter your shul team. Shuls are competing for the grand prize – bragging rights as the smartest shul in the UK. You can also download the Shabbat Pack – if you did not get sent one by your shul.
If you don’t get in – do not worry – you can still watch the quiz and enjoy the excellent entertainment from Rabbi Marc Levene and Yuval Hakimim.
I remember firework night as a kid, I used to really enjoy it. The fireworks would soar into the air and explode in a shower of light – but then as quickly as it appeared it was gone, just a bit of smoke to remind you where the firework had once been. Even the most brilliant displays are over so quickly.
It doesn’t matter for fireworks, but it can be a metaphor for life. So much of what modern society encourages can make us soar for a few minutes or even hours – but then it is gone, nothing has truly been achieved.
Shabbat is the time where we invest in the areas of life that give us that feeling of achievement – family, God and community – this Shabbat, the UK and the entire world will be connecting to that.
And the entire world will begin the Shabbat experience with fire, not to explode in an instant but as Shabbat candles that burn for hours as we eat our Friday night dinner, giving light and joy to our homes.