A Message from the Chief Rabbi

At the dawn of the Common Era, the Roman philosopher Seneca said ‘…there is never a time when new distraction will not show…’. This is a sentiment which rings more true than ever today, two thousand years later.

So much of our lives are lived in a perpetual state of distraction, moving from work to leisure and back again without pause for considered thought or reflection. A busy life is surely fulfilling, but only when paired with time for introspection. Shabbat is that time.

The ‘Lecha Dodi’ prayer, sung in Shul during the Kabbalat Shabbat service to welcome the Shabbat bride, is signifiantly different from our other Shabbat prayers. Whilst Shabbat is universally referred to as a day of rest, the message of Lecha Dodi is quite the opposite: ‘Wake up, wake up, for your light has come; rise, shine!’ The contrasting messages of rest and awakening can perhaps be understood as speaking to our material and spiritual sides respectvely.

The essence of a restful Shabbat is that separation from mundane work and empty distraction is necessary to reinvigorate one’s soul; to find space for meaningful engagement with our friends and families in a noisy world of media and communications which constantly demand our attention.

The distractions we are all but obsessed with during the week are not true rest from the stresses of working life. Too often we look to rest our bodies without also looking to wake up to the truly important elements of our lives. Shabbat stands at the end of each week to remove both work and distraction: to remind us why we toil and to give us the strength to continue.

Shabbat is truly for sharing and that is precisely what ShabbatUK is all about. On a day of rest it can be all too easy to recuperate alone, but true meaning is found in our engagement with loved ones. This year, use ShabbatUK to reinvest in the most important people in your life, and share what’s important with them lest you find yourself distracted by distraction.

Wishing you a wonderful ShabbatUK,