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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Shabbat shalom

In an unfamiliar ritual, I recognize my heritage

The table was set with beautiful china when we arrived. Our Christian friends announced that this Friday evening was to be a Shabbat. What's that? I wondered.

To begin, we stood behind our chairs. Cheryl draped a scarf over her head, lit two candles. She prayed first in newly learned Hebrew, then in English: "Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us by his word, gave us Yeshua to be our Messiah and commanded us to be lights to the world."

Her husband, Bob, picked up a ram's horn, shofar, and gave two celebratory blasts. Then he sang the Sh'ma, based on Deuteronomy 6: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Blessed be his glorious name forever." Holding a glass of wine, Bob prayed, " 'Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.' " And added, "Jesus said, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing' " (John 15:5). The wine was passed around the table. I thought, Jesus shed his blood for us.

Bob uncovered the braided bread, challah: "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." The bread was passed from person to person. Yes, I thought, Jesus' body was broken for us.

Then we joined our voices, Shabbat shalom--Sabbath peace. The ritual had ended, and it was time for dinner.

We ate. We talked. Two hours passed.

" 'Communion' existed long before Jesus' time," Cheryl said. "Jews blessed their wine and bread every day. At the Last Supper Jesus said, 'Do this for the remembrance of me.' "

Shabbat lingered in my mind for days. Jewish ritual had enriched my Christian faith: I considered the spiritual continuum that reaches both forward and back. Shabbat--unfamiliar to me and yet my heritage.


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