Saturday, February 20, 2016

When Marissa saved Shabbat

It's true. It happened. I once singlehandedly saved Shabbat AND stopped the dorms from burning down.

During my first semester in Haifa, one Friday night I was hanging out in the dorms common room talking to some girls I knew. All of a sudden, a rabbi came running around the corner.

He was wearing full ultra-Orthodox rabbi garb- the black coat, the big hat, and the sidecurls. I was sitting closest to the door, so he talked to me. 

In Hebrew, and looking frantic, he asked me if I was Jewish. When I said no, he said "Boi eeti!" (come with me), and before I could respond or ask for more explanation he ran back out the door and expected me to follow him.

I looked at the other girls, who just shrugged. They were also confused. I was intrigued, so I followed him down the hallway. When I caught up to him he was gesturing at a hot plate that was smoking and starting to melt the table.

It turns out that he just needed someone to unplug it for him. 

It would have been a violation of keeping the Sabbath for him to do it. They also don't believe in asking other Jews- even non-religious ones (and there are a lot of those in Israel) to break the Sabbath. So that explains why a rabbi looking straight out of Fiddler on the Roof asked me if I was Jewish and then expected me to run after him just to unplug something.

I think if he hadn't happened to find a nice Gentile like me to help him out, it would have been okay for him to just do it himself in an emergency. But thankfully, I wasn't too far away :)

I actually learned something new from this experience. I knew turning on electronics wasn't allowed, but I didn't know that turning OFF electronics also wasn't allowed. In case you're curious, here's some other things I (courtesy of the Chabad website) that Orthodox Jews don't do on Shabbat:

-writing, erasing, or tearing
-business transactions
-riding in or driving cars
-using phones
-turning on or off anything that uses electricity
-cooking, baking, or starting a fire

Pretty interesting. But it gets more interesting. They can get around doing some things by setting timers so their lights will turn on at certain times and using various ways to keep food warm (gotta be careful with those hot plates though haha). 

My personal favorite rule that I've ever heard is that some people unscrew or turn off the lights in their fridge, to avoid turning the light on automatically when the fridge door is opened. Another fun thing is that you're not allowed to carry anything from outside your home to inside (ANYTHING). There are also rules about moving certain objects even inside your house.

Shabbat is especially visible in Jerusalem, where there are so many religious people. For example, in every hotel I've stayed at they have a special 'Shabbat elevator' that automatically stops at every floor so you don't need to press any buttons.

It's pretty much impossible to find any food after sunset on Fridays in Jerusalem. When David came to visit me last year, we didn't plan ahead and spent forever wandering around before I finally gave up on a meal and just bought some snacks at the one store that was open. It was hard sometimes to live somewhere where everything was closed for two days out of the week. 

Doesn't all of this make the "Mormon rules" about keeping the Sabbath seem really easy? All we have to do is pretty much just not buy anything, and devote some time to being with family and go to church. Well, some people in Utah make it a lot more complicated than that... but the other "rules" people come with are more personal decisions than rules.

The other interesting thing about Jews and the Sabbath (besides all of the rules), is that they LOVE the Sabbath. It seems like it would be so hard to follow all of the rules, but they still celebrate it and look forward to it every week. They enjoy resting, not working, and spending time with their families. 

I don't exaggerate when I say they celebrate the Sabbath. If you ever go to Jerusalem, it's a must-see to go to the Western Wall on Friday night. It's a joyous, party atmosphere. Families come together wearing their nicest clothes. They pray, sing, and dance. I especially enjoy watching the dancing.

Walking to the Western Wall:

Shabbat shalom, everyone! 

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