Announcing my new book from Jewish Lights Publishing
AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE SHABBAT:
Jewish People Celebrate the Sabbath Together
* Scroll down to watch a video of this book being made! *
My newest picture book is a paradox. It’s about something both personal and universal, both common and unknown, both ancient and modern. It comes out of my own hearth and home, yet will take picture book readers to faraway places across the globe. AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE SHABBAT revisits one of the oldest traditions on the planet as it continues to exist today. It is a tradition in time: the Sabbath.
What’s new about a weekly holiday that’s over three thousand years old?
Why teach children about the Sabbath?
It is often said that time accelerates as we age; so too does time seem to be speeding up for our entire planet. We live in an era of instant communication and increasing activity. Gone is the one-income family where labor is divided between the sexes; instead we are feverishly engaged in multi-tasking our way through the daily grind. We juggle careers and hobbies, family and social life, home improvements and vacations, exercise and self-improvement. Along with this compressed lifestyle come the many stress-related ailments that are so common in our society today.
The recent economic recession has compelled many people to re-examine the rampant materialism and mushrooming debt of our society. As our priorities shift, we strive to spend less and save more; to recycle and replant; to meditate and do yoga; to resist the runaway train of productivity and take a break. Good advice for overworked executives, understaffed police, overburdened judicial systems, sagging bureaucracies, and most of all, busy moms and dads. We all need a rest in order to do a good job.
Encompassing all these techniques for relaxation and rejuvenation is the Sabbath, the ancient tradition that sets in rhythm a cycle of labor and rest. The Sabbath governs the timing of rest. It sets it apart, protects it, and gives it equal status to our noblest ambitions; in fact, it enables those ambitions. This ancient tradition just might be the key to modern time management. As the silence between notes allows music to breathe, as the space between logs allows fire to ignite; as contemplation allows creativity to flow, so too does the sacred time of rest provide something crucial to our busy human lives.
As we come to understand the critical importance of managing our time and resources wisely, we understand why God sanctified the seventh day. The very first usage of the word “holy” in recorded history refers not to a thing, not to something visible or tangible, but to an interlude in time: the Sabbath. While God’s creations in the Book of Genesis are called “fruitful” or “good” (“And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good . .. “), it is the Sabbath that is first called “holy” or “hallowed” [“kadosh” קדש] (“And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work”).
The English word Sabbath, or “rest”, translates to Shabbat in Hebrew; Assibit in Arabic; Sabado in Spanish; Sabbato in Italian; Sabbat in French; Samstag in German; Shabbos in Yiddish; Szombat in Hungarian; Simbata in Rumanian; Sabbaton in Greek; and Sabbatum Sanctum in Latin. In the time of Jesus, the common Aramaic word for Sabbath was Shabta. If you are Muslim, Jewish, or Christian – whether celebrated on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday – the Sabbath is embedded deep within the taproot of your ancestors’ beliefs.
At the very bottom of this taproot, the moral groundwork for Western civilization laid down in the Ten Commandments over three thousand years ago is still relevant today. The fourth commandment – to remember and keep the Sabbath – is still honored by people all over the world. One of the main tenets of Jewish practice, the Sabbath binds Jewish faith to all of creation, and to the weekly rhythm of life.
So take a peek at how the Sabbath is celebrated around the globe. In Australia and Argentina, in Canada and Morocco, in Israel and Thailand, wherever you go in this picture book portrait of a single Sabbath, you’ll see people at their best: resting and eating; reading and playing; walking and talking; listening, reflecting, and praying. What better foundation for a balanced, healthy world?
All over the world, the Sabbath manifests differently. In every nation, it is quietly observed through diverse customs, clothing, and cuisine. AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE SHABBAT shows Jewish households honoring the tradition of the Sabbath. But in any tradition, in any language, the Sabbath brings out the best in families. And what is good for families is good for children. The Sabbath above all is a peaceful time: thus the Hebrew blessing Shabbat Shalom – a peaceful Sabbath.
In ancient times, the penalty for working on the Sabbath was death. The heavens will not give forth rain and the earth not yield its harvest, the Bible tells us, if the Sabbath is broken. Is the punishment really so different today? Our frantic pursuits have yielded unstable ecosystems, toxic waste, droughts and floods, famines and epidemics, and widespread corruption and war. Many people are also plagued by spiritual poverty: an inner sense of disillusionment or disconnection. How would the world change, if we remembered the Sabbath as a way of replenishing the wellsprings that nourish our lives?
AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE SHABBAT offers an answer. The Sabbath brings all of humanity together as participants in the mystery of Creation, and teaches us to live in harmony with family, community, and the pulse of time that carries us through life.
Click here to watch a video of this book being painted, and a quick tour of the book:
See page 13 for song lyrics, “Hineih Mah Tov uMahnayim”
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