In the Gemara, we learn, “…The scion of David (Mashiach) will come if they keep just one Shabbos, because the Shabbos is equivalent to all the mitzvos.” (Shemos Rabba 25:121: Yerushalmi, Ta’anis 1:10)
Enter the Shabbos Project, founded by Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein of South Africa. The goal as explained on the website is for “Jews from all walks of life from across the spectrum – religious, secular, traditional, young and old, from all corners of the world – to unite to experience one full Shabbos together, in full accordance with Jewish law.“
The Shabbos Project has grown and expanded to all parts of the globe. In Los Angeles, the Shabbos Project began three years ago, thanks to the efforts of Leanne Praw and her family. Leanne became involved when her cousin (who was not observant) took part in the first Shabbos Project in South Africa. She called Leanne to say that the experience was so fantastic that maybe it should be expanded to L.A.
Two years ago the Shabbos Project was launched with a challah bake at Ohr Eliyahu, lunch at Aish HaTorah, and dinner for a thousand people at Nessah synagogue. The following year, there was an amazing dinner outside on Pico Boulevard for 3000 participants. The street was blocked off from Beverly Drive to Doheny Drive. Unfortunately, the dinner could not be replicated in 2016 due to a lack of funds. The challah bake was almost cancelled too – that is, until the Hecht family stepped in.
This year, the Hecht family, owners of Schwartz Bakery, funded the entire challah bake. They contributed money, resources, supplies, and food for the sold-out event. Over 300 women and girls filled the beautiful new Adas Torah synagogue on Thursday night. Rebbitzen Sharon Shenker introduced Mrs. Machla Perkowski, who did hafrashas challah for the group, followed by each table captain. Women were given an opportunity to pray for anything they wanted to before everyone began shaping and braiding the challah. Grandma Rosie, one of the participants who baked challah last year for the first time, was present to celebrate her 101st birthday.
Bais Yaacov girls wore chef hats and sang “The Challah Lady Song,” and the Shabbos Project Women’s Choir sang “Yibanei Beis Hamikdash,” “Im Atem Meshamrim,” and a “Shabbos Medley.” Bais Yaakov and B’nos Devorah girls volunteered for various jobs and led the whole room in very spirited song and dance culminating in everyone joining together to sing Mordechai Ben David’s “Just One Shabbos.”
One participant, named Sandy, went around helping people braid their challah. She said she had an idea to introduce challah baking kits into the schools. This and any other ideas are welcomed by the Shabbos Project. They encourage everyone to participate in any way they can.
Shabbos was ushered in Friday night with davening at Aish HaTorah’s Boxenbaum Family Building, with The Community Shul, The Happy Minyan, and Pico Shul singing and dancing in unity. Jeff Rohatiner of “Jeff’s Gourmet Sausages,” led the services with beautiful Carlebach-style melodies.
David Sacks, co-founder and leader of the Happy Minyan, inspired and uplifted everyone with his words of Torah. He presented a new idea based on a teaching from Reb Tzaddik HaKohen. Reb Tzaddik points out, “Everything in the realm of space has a correlation in the realm of time. In space you have a concept called Israel. Israel in the realm of time is Shabbos.” David Sacks expanded on this, saying, “Avraham and Sarah were to march and to journey towards Shabbos. The messianic era is called Yom Shekulo Shabbos, the day that will be all Shabbos. Avraham and Sarah had been charged to march toward and to arrive at a journey, which will culminate in the perfection of the world. The first six days of Shabbos are compared to the body of the universe, whereas the seventh day of the week is the soul of the universe. This is the historic journey that all of us are on.”
Shabbos afternoon, there were three programs for seudas shelishis. Over 100 women gathered at Morry’s Fireplace to eat a delicious meal and hear Rebbetzin Batyah Brander speak. Her dvar Torah discussed how the original song “Halleluka” by Leonard Cohen mixed up metaphors, combining the scheming Delilah with the virtuous Batsheva. Liz Leibowitz wowed everyone with her beautiful rendition of a verse about Shabbos sung to the tune of “Halleluka” written by Rebbitzen Brander.
YICC hosted guest speaker Rabbi Mark Wildes, founder of the Manhattan Jewish Experience. The topic was “Reaching Out: the Dual Nature of Kiruv.” Rabbi Wildes handed out source materials from the Rambam, instructing Jews how to be responsible for one another. Rabbi Muskin posed the question of why many who go to yeshiva go off the derech. Rabbi Wildes replied that young people in their twenties often lose their connection with a rabbi or a mentor and that is important for them to have that connection and for the community to embrace them in the years in between school and settling down with a family.
Aliza Marton also held a beautiful seudat shelishis in her home.
The Shabbos Project continued with two programs for havdalah, melave malkah, and kumzitz, one at Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu, with entertainment provided by Naftali Finkel; and the other at the Pico Shul, with everyone dancing to Rabbi Yona’s band.
Leanne Praw says she couldn’t have launched this year’s Shabbos Project programs without her hardworking team. Beth Leventhal, Ronnie Penn, Tali Merowitz, Sharon Weiner, and Michelle Perkowski spent countless hours in preparation.