The popular term Shabbaton – a Shabbat celebration – derives from the Torah. It refers to the weekly Sabbath (e.g. Ex. 31:15), to Yom Kippur (e.g. Lev. 16:31, in today’s sidra), to the other festivals (e.g. Lev. 23:24, 39) and also to the sabbatical year (Lev. 25:4).
Since we often find a double phrase, shabbat shabbaton, some commentators suggest that there is a double duty on Shabbat – to rest the body and to rest the soul; others say it indicates a deep, intense celebration of Shabbat.
The modern Shabbaton combines both meanings. It includes statutory worship, but it also stresses spending the rest of the day in relaxed companionship, enjoying the meals, the songs, the conversation, the learning sessions and the sheer joy of being alive.
But the very success of the Shabbaton concept has its down side. We seem to think that to have a Shabbaton you have to be away from home. Of course spending Shabbat in and with the community has a flavour all of its own. But we should never sacrifice the home on the altar of the community.
With enough thought and attention, every Shabbat at home can also be an all-absorbing experience, an oasis in time.
Shabbat Shalom, wherever you are!