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Keeping Shabbot on the Jordan River

This past Shabbot weekend my digging coworkers, Beny and Naama, and I traveled North to the Jordan river for a few days of waterside relaxation and adventure. It took a while to convince Naama we would keep Shabbot on our outdoor trip, but we succeeded by planning very thoughtfully and carefully when packing our bags. The bus ride was long, our bags heavy with food, water, and supplies to last us two days. Additionally, we had an extensive 2 mile trek to our destination on the riverbank. All of the hard work was worth it though, and as we dropped all of our belongings on a reasonable patch of dirt Naama and I peeled off our sweaty clothes and dove right into the clean, cold flowing, Jordan River water. Once we were in it was almost impossible to imagine going back to the hot humid air. We swam up and down the river, found giant Eucalyptus trees to climb and tons of hidden rope swings to jump into the water from. As much as we wanted to stay in the water, we had to prepare dinner before sundown. We cooked pasta, and a delicious mushroom tomato cream sauce. Naama and I snuck back into the water between finishing cooking and the sunset when she got out of the water to pray. She lit a few tealights under protection of a hollow tree trunk, then blessed the wine and the bread. I listened to them sing a few songs before we finally dug into our lovely campfire meal. When it was dark we continued to swim and met a group of people who are regulars on the other side of the bank. They called it their meditation spot, complete with hammocks, mattresses, and structures built out of bamboo. At night they made multiple fires inside tin cans and played music with guitars and drums. This turned out to be problematic for our attempt at keeping Shabbot, because one of the rules includes no music. Beny explained to me that this rule exists in an attempt to make sure you are not creating or destroying anything. If you play an instrument, like the Guitar for example, you risk breaking a string (destroying) in which you might have to repair it (creating). I found this rule very confusing because you are allowed to read on Shabbot, but you risk ripping paper when you turn the page, but then again we were breaking a lot of rules by just being away from family and not attending temple. I found the rules better explained in whole online, describing the intention of the rules to “enhance the joy, rest, and holiness of the day.”Although I have trouble understanding how music can take away the elements of joy from the holiness of the day, I can surely say we maximized the rest aspect like lazy bums on the trees in the middle of the Jordan.

Rebekah Renfro

7 comments to Keeping Shabbot on the Jordan River

  • drdivine

    If you are away from family on Shabbat, you are not breaking any religiously based rules. May be undesirable but not same status as tearing paper for example. I am writing this while near the Arctic Circle by the way. I am in some small republic that is part of the Russian Federation.

  • rrenfro

    Wow. Must be cold. I’m sucking up all the warmth here!

  • drdivine

    We are heading south now and it is warmer. I forgot to mention that even not going to synagogue on Shabbat different from actually tearing paper–not a real violation of Shabbat; more like not just fulfilling prayer obligations but those obligations cover all days not only Shabbat. So, going camping is probably ok so long as do not actually do things that violate the 39 categories of ‘work’ or creating things forbidden on the Sabbath or holidays.

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