Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In the Netherlands on Saturday orthodox Jews can go around without documents

In the Netherlands on Saturday orthodox Jews will go around without documents.

In this case, the lay Supreme Court of the Netherlands has established a principle intended to cause controversy:  religious obligation prevails over the law.   

So Orthodox Jews have been exempted from showing, at the request of the police, their identity card since this is in conflict with their religious beliefs.   

In fact, their religion  forbids Orthodox Jews to take anything out of the house on the Sabbath.   

Therefore also their identity card.  

 «It was not the Jews who preserved the Sabbath but it was the Sabbath that preserved the Jews», explains the Jewish thinker Achad Ha'am to emphasize the importance of Shabbat,  the day of Saturday, a crucial appointment for the identity of a Jew.  

The centrality of the Sabbath in Jewish life is confirmed by the fact that the weekdays are counted in relation to the day of Shabbat ("first day", "second day" and so on, with Saturday that closes the week).
 
The idea of a weekly day of rest for all, including slaves and animals, can be regarded as the most singular contribution that Judaism has made to humanity.   

The commandment of rest (Sabbath means "rest") on the seventh day of the week finds its origin in the history of the creation of the world.

According to the book of Genesis, God completed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh.  

According to the rabbis, on the seventh day God continued to create and He created rest. The Torah commands Jews not to do any work during the Sabbath day, without explaining what it means by "work".   

The rabbis, noting that the term "work" in the Bible is used to describe various activities necessary for the construction of the "tent-tabernacle" in the desert, have established 39 types of activities from which the Jews must refrain: these include many jobs uncommon to most contemporary Jews such as harvesting, dyeing, sheep shearing and so on.
 
Today the main activities that are prohibited: travel, shopping, cooking and writing. 

Orthodox Jews do not even use electricity during the Sabbath day and therefore spend one day a week without television, telephone or internet.   

As for basic appliances and electricity, many Orthodox Jewish families have installed automatic timers.  Obviously, these prohibitions may, indeed must, be broken if there is danger to life.   

«To an outsider, the Sabbath day may seem like a restrictive set of prohibitions, but almost all the Jews who observe them insist that it is one of the most refreshing and liberating experiences»,  says the scholar of Judaism, Daniel Taub .    

The fact of not working, not answering the phone or mail, makes every Jew free to focus on his inner life.   

The Sabbath is a day devoted to contemplation, the hospitality of friends, leisure with their children.

In modern life it is easy to forget these simple pleasures.   

The Shabbat helps the faithful to rediscover themselves, creating what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called "an island in time".   

Since that day, in Judaism, begins with the evening, the Sabbath begins on Friday evening.  

For the occasion, the family wears her best clothes and the table is laid in a solemn manner.  

The mother is responsible for lighting the two candles that welcome the Shabbat and, in some families, the same number of candles are lit as the number of  that are children present. 

The liturgy in the synagogue on Friday evening is particularly beautiful and includes special prayers to welcome the Sabbath (Kabbalat Shabbat).

The ritual ends with a particular song, the Lecha Dodi ("come, my beloved, to welcome the Sabbath as a bride"), which greets the Sabbath as a beautiful bride.

The welcoming rite (Kabbalat Shabbat) began to spread in the sixteenth century, thanks to the Jewish mystical movement born in the Israeli town of Safed, where the faithful went through the fields to the edge of the village to symbolically welcome Saturday as a bride.   

«After the celebration in the synagogue, while returning home, the parents bless their children and  warmly invite guests», points out Daniel Taub.
 
A special blessing, the Kiddush, is recited over a glass of wine while another blessing is pronounced over two loaves in the shape of a braid (Challah).

During the meal it is customary to discuss the Torah and sing typical songs.

On Saturday morning, the service in the synagogue is longer and includes the reading of the weekly section of the Torah. 

Upon return from the synagogue, the family gathers for a festive lunch, always in the company of guests, discussions and songs. The. Shabbat ends on Saturday evening, when the first three stars appear in the sky.

To celebrate the end of Saturday a small ceremony takes place called Havdalah (separation):  

Some blessings are recited over wine, candles and spices.

These are used to "revive the spirits" because in the house reigns sadness for the Saturday that is about to end.

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