Pho­to by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

Writ­ing Shab­bat. A Day to Cre­ate Your­self was a unique expe­ri­ence for me.

With oth­er books I’ve writ­ten, I’ve known the direc­tion the book would take from the begin­ning. From there, it was a mat­ter of crys­tal­liz­ing those thoughts and ideas into the writ­ten word – not a sim­ple process. 

The jour­ney of writ­ing Shab­bat. A Day to Cre­ate Your­self took its own path.. Rather than a cal­cu­lat­ed, delib­er­a­tive process, the idea for the book emerged from my sense of won­der at the way in which the Shab­bat Project took off, first in South Africa, and then across the world.

The Shab­bat Project is a call for Jews every­where, of all back­grounds, to join togeth­er to keep one Shab­bat. It began in South Africa in 2013, before spread­ing to hun­dreds of cities world­wide. Today, it is cel­e­brat­ed in more than 1,500 cities and over 100 coun­tries, dri­ven by thou­sands of vol­un­teer part­ners on the ground.

Wit­ness­ing this glob­al grass­roots move­ment take shape had a pro­found impact on me. I was faced with many ques­tions. How does Shab­bat inspire and bring togeth­er Jews of all lev­els of obser­vance? What is the secret pow­er and beau­ty of this day that has cap­ti­vat­ed Jews for gen­er­a­tions? What makes Shab­bat so com­pelling for us today?

And so, I began delv­ing into sources, try­ing to puz­zle out the mean­ing of Shab­bat, in order to under­stand the Shab­bat Project phe­nom­e­non for myself. It became a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, and grad­u­al­ly, a book emerged from these explorations. 

You’ll see in the bib­li­og­ra­phy that there are more than 200 books which have informed my per­son­al jour­ney, bring­ing to light dimen­sions of Shab­bat I nev­er knew exist­ed. I say that as a rab­bi who has stud­ied and taught the laws of Shab­bat for many years. But Shab­bat. A Day to Cre­ate Your­self  is about under­stand­ing the deep­er sig­nif­i­cance of Shab­bat — the spir­it, vision, and val­ues of Shab­bat which are inter­twined with these laws and emerge from them. 

In time, I began to see Shab­bat from a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. I learned that the Divine gift of Shab­bat goes beyond the sim­ple kind­ness of God grant­i­ng us a day of com­plete rest from the demands of dai­ly life,although that gift can­not be under­es­ti­mat­ed, espe­cial­ly in today’s fren­zied times.

Dur­ing the week we cre­ate the world around us, dur­ing Shab­bat we cre­ate our­selves.

I dis­cov­ered big­ger, grander ideas – how Shab­bat can unleash per­son­al and soci­etal renew­al; how it offers us a Divine recipe for hap­pi­ness in an increas­ing­ly com­plex world; how Shab­bat gives us the tools to cre­ate the best ver­sion of our­selves and our world, remind­ing us that our most impor­tant accom­plish­ments in life can­not be measured .

The title refers to one over­ar­ch­ing idea: dur­ing the week we cre­ate the world around us, dur­ing Shab­bat we cre­ate our­selves.

This idea – that Shab­bat can be a cat­a­lyst for self-trans­for­ma­tion – is, I believe, a fresh way of look­ing at Shab­bat, and yet it’s deeply root­ed in our ancient sources.

The style of Shab­bat. A Day to Cre­ate Your­self is also total­ly dif­fer­ent to my oth­er books. The ideas are encap­su­lat­ed in short, easy-to-digest chap­ters, with the source ref­er­ences appear­ing as end­notes to each chap­ter, so that the read­er can enjoy the text first and then delve into the sources if they wish. In gen­er­al, rather than some­thing you sim­ply read and put back on the shelf when you’re done, the book lends itself to dis­cus­sion and con­tem­pla­tion. It’s a book that spurs action and that sparks pub­lic discussion.

It is for this rea­son that Shab­bat. A Day to Cre­ate Your­self is being accom­pa­nied by new book clubs, most of which have been set up by Shab­bat Project vol­un­teer part­ners around the world (the book has been trans­lat­ed into three lan­guages, with a glob­al dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work to mir­ror the Shab­bat Project network).

These book clubs involve groups of peo­ple from all back­grounds meet­ing up on a reg­u­lar basis to read and dis­cuss the book, exchange insights and ideas, and share their Shab­bat experiences.

In my home coun­try of South Africa, there are busi­ness­es that have set up Fri­day after­noon learn­ing groups, and young moth­ers and daugh­ters who have under­tak­en to read the book togeth­er after can­dle-light­ing every Fri­day evening.

The goal is to start a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion about Shab­batto demon­strate that it has answers to our great­est chal­lenges, and can pave the way to a bright Jew­ish future.

This has been the dri­ving vision of the Shab­bat Project and its thou­sands of vol­un­teers in com­mu­ni­ties across the Jew­ish world – and it is the dri­ving vision of this book.

Ulti­mate­ly, I hope you will find Shab­bat. A Day to Cre­ate Your­self as eye-open­ing to read as it was for me to write – and that it enhances your enjoy­ment and appre­ci­a­tion of the pre­cious gift deliv­ered with Divine love at sun­set every Friday. 

To set up a A Day to Cre­ate Your­self book club email Robin@​chiefrabbi.​co.​za.

Rab­bi Dr War­ren Gold­stein is the cur­rent Chief Rab­bi of South Africa and a glob­al Jew­ish leader. Affec­tion­ate­ly referred to as Chief’ and a spir­i­tu­al entre­pre­neur’ he has launched and led a num­ber of inno­v­a­tive social projects with glob­al reach and impact. Local­ly, his Bill of Respon­si­bil­i­ties – adopt­ed by the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and taught in schools nation­wide – has shown a new gen­er­a­tion of young South Africans the impor­tance of com­pas­sion, and respect for the dig­ni­ty and well­be­ing of oth­ers. CAP, a unique com­mu­ni­ty-dri­ven crime-fight­ing ini­tia­tive that pro­tects 30,000 homes and upwards of 250,000 peo­ple, and has reduced con­tact crime in its area of oper­a­tion by between 80 and 90 per­cent and Sinai Ind­a­ba, the largest annu­al Torah con­ven­tion of its kind. Two of his local projects have been embraced and cham­pi­oned by world-jew­ry: Gen­er­a­tion Sinai, an annu­al fam­i­ly learn­ing expe­ri­ence as well as The Shab­bat Project which unites Jews annu­al­ly in over 1000 cities on an unprece­dent­ed scale. The youngest per­son to ever be elect­ed to the posi­tion, Chief Rab­bi Gold­stein is a strong advo­cate for cre­ative, proac­tive lead­er­ship and effec­tive part­ner­ship to find unique solu­tions to the chal­lenges of our time. He has fea­tured on The Algemeiner’s top 100 Peo­ple Pos­i­tive­ly Influ­enc­ing Jew­ish Life mul­ti­ple times and has a reg­u­lar study ses­sion with South Africa’s Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa. He is an exec­u­tive mem­ber of South Africa’s Nation­al Reli­gious Lead­ers Coun­cil, through which he is involved with strength­en­ing inter-faith rela­tions in the coun­try between Jews, Chris­t­ian, Mus­lims, Hin­dus and oth­er faiths, as well as engag­ing with the gov­ern­ment on nation­al pol­i­cy mat­ters. A qual­i­fied Jew­ish law judge, Rab­bi Gold­stein has pub­lished sev­er­al books includ­ing African Soul Talk: When Pol­i­tics is not Enough (with Dumani Man­dela); Defend­ing the Human Spir­it: Jew­ish Law’s Vision for a Moral Soci­ety; Sefer Mish­pat Tzedek (a detailed analy­sis of Torah busi­ness law and ethics, with par­tic­u­lar focus on com­pe­ti­tion law); and The Lega­cy: Teach­ings for Life from the Great Lithuan­ian Rab­bis (with Rab­bi Ber­el Wein). The Chief Rab­bi has a PhD in Human Rights and Con­sti­tu­tion­al Law and is a reg­u­lar colum­nist for the Jerusalem Post and aish​.com.