Rabbi guides congregation, students through Shabbat ceremony

June 28, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Members of Beth Shalom Synagogue exchanged greetings of "Good Shabbas" as they welcomed Shabbat with candles, song and blessings Friday.

"May the merciful one bless all of us together with the blessing of peace," about 30 people prayed.

Twice a year, the Taylorsville congregation gathers at a table laden with challah bread and bottles of sweet red wine to celebrate Shabbat with the traditional Friday evening dinner for Jewish families.

After Joyce Wiener lighted the candles that signified the beginning of the Sabbath, Rabbi Seymour Essrog promised "an eating experience" and instructions that would be "everything you ever wanted to know about Shabbat."

"We welcome Shabbat with candles and song," said the rabbi. "Shalom."

The rabbi intoned several blessings for parents, children and spouses.

"There is a tribute to the woman of the house, usually by the husband," he said. "And, now, we have one for a woman to chant to her husband."

Those who could not follow the Hebrew read the rituals in English in "The Art of Jewish Living" manuals provided by the congregation.

Before members toasted Shabbat, Rabbi Essrog said the kiddush prayer over the wine "to sanctify the day." He blessed and sliced the rich, yellow bread.

"Now, according to the script, we go to the meal," he said with a laugh.

A slight delay in the kitchen forced the rabbi to stretch out the prayers a little longer with a "song fest."

"You really are singing for your supper," he said. "But I will give you extra credit in the service later tonight."

Conviviality prevailed as the people, along with the rabbi, sang the Hebrew hymns and clapped the rhythms. Although some tripped over the unfamiliar syllables, most followed the rabbi's // lead with ease.

"How good for brethren to dwell together in unity," the rabbi said.

Blessings also followed the meal.

"Praised are you, Adonai, ruler of the universe, who feeds the world," said the rabbi.

Many of those in attendance came at Rabbi Essrog's invitation. Some are members of a class he is teaching through the Jewish Community Center in Baltimore.

"I am taking the course and I like the rabbi, so I wanted to come to the service," said Reeva Bernhardt, who traveled from Towson with her 19-year-old daughter.

Celeste Jaquinde of Frederick is taking instructions from the rabbi to prepare for her conversion to Judaism. She said she enjoyed the meal and prayers.

"This has been a wonderful evening," she said. "Everyone is together and there is so much sharing. My friend and I are strangers here, and everyone has welcomed us."

Rabbi Essrog said the welcoming atmosphere is all part of the congregation's "outreach" program.

"The more welcoming and open you are, the more people will come," he said. "I know there are Jews in Carroll County who want to come here. We want to draw them into the congregation."

Many of those attending the Shabbat said they were "shopping" for a congregation and had followed Rabbi Essrog to Taylorsville.

"The rabbi brought us here," said Alvin Bober of Owings Mills, a longtime friend of Rabbi Essrog.

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