שבת - Shabbat
Tzfat is a rather small town located in Northern Israel in the mountains of the Upper Galilee. It commands magnificent views east to the Golan, north to the Hermon and Lebanon, west to Mt. Meron and the Amud Valley, and south to Tiberias and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Tzfat is one of the four holy cities in Israel, together with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. During the 16th century (the 1500‘s) Tzfat was the home to many Jewish spiritual giants like Rabbi Isaac Luria (The Ari) and Rabbi Yosef Caro.
In the Old City one can even today visit the synagogue that the Ari is said to have prayed in and learned in, and taught in. While this is the Ari Sephardi Synagogue, across the way is the Ari Ashkenaz Synagogue which bears a plaque in the Ari's name. His final resting place is in the Tzfat cemetery. Nearby is a fresh water spring which the Ari is said to have used as a mikveh (ritual bath) during his lifetime. To this day it is called the Mikveh Ari.
Because of this rich spiritual history, Shabbat in the old town of Tzfat is very special. In some ways the town is very quiet, in others it is still as vibrant, just taking life at a slightly slower pace. There are dozens of synagogues to chose from, each with their own special atmosphere and style of prayer, from the fast mumbled services, to the more drawnout services at many of the Hassidic synagogues, and the singing and dancing at the popular Shlomo Carlebach z"l service. In particular for someone who has never experienced a traditional Shabbat, Shabbat in Tzfat makes an interesting experience and offers the chance to absorb the town's special atmosphere.
Just because you’re not in Tzfat doesn’t mean that you can’t make Shabbat special for yourself wherever you live. Here are some ideas:
Choose one habit that you have (one that you are not proud of) and focus over Shabbat on controlling yourself and not participating in that bad habit. It may be a habit like gossiping, lying, or being mean to a sibling.
Find ways to bring joy into your Shabbat observance. This may be by eating your favorite foods (kosher of course), spending time with your best friends, reading a favorite book or doing something else that brings joy to your day.
Stop using all of the technological tools that we have become so accustomed to use every day. This means avoid using the computer and cell phone, watching t.v., listening to an iPod, etc.
Sanctify your Shabbat by doing something uniquely Jewish. This might mean saying blessings before you eat your Shabbat meals, attending synagogue, saying Havdalah, reciting Kiddush, or singing Birkat after you eat.