Sabbath Manifesto

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Many people give a few coins to charity, or tzedakah, just before lighting candles [link] at sunset on Friday. There's no single explanation given, though the practice is connected to several practical ideas: To get rid of any money that might be in your pocket, or to enable others to spend future Sabbaths without worrying about money.

There's no reason that giving needs to end at sunset. Invite people into your home for a Sabbath meal: Friends, strangers, or even--especially--someone you don't know. The concept of hachnasat orhim, or "inviting guests," is the easiest way to share the Sabbath experience with others. Hachnasat orhim has its roots in the Torah, in Genesis 18:8: Abraham invited some strangers for a bite, and they ended up being angels on a mission from God.

If you're so inclined, you can go even further in your efforts to share the Shabbat spirit. Drop off food to those who can't afford to make a Sabbath meal, or those who are unable to, such as the elderly. Volunteer in your synagogue, or elsewhere in your neighborhood. Walk to a nursing home and sit and talk with some of the residents--giving back can be as simple, and as low-pressure, as hanging out.

Sabbath is an equalizing experience. The Day of Rest takes us out of our everyday world--of social classes, of old and young; of rich and poor. We try to avoid buying things, and we try to put an emphasis on the things that count: friends, family, and food. Sabbath puts us all on the same level. And giving back is one way to make that happen.

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