A Different Way to Spend Shabbat Morning

March 15th, 2022

RABBI JONATHAN JAFFE BERNHARD

Kindred Spirits Care Farm is designed to ​​promote compassion, cooperation and connection to the earth, animals, and each other through sustainable care farming.  Care farming connects the healing power of horticultural therapy and/or animal therapy in a farm environment with vulnerable people who can benefit from meaningful time with plants and animals. The animals are all rescues from factory farms and people are invited to volunteer and help every Shabbat morning

For 25 years as a pulpit rabbi, I spent almost every Shabbat morning in my synagogue’s sanctuary officiating at services. We prayed, we studied, we talked, we ate. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Shabbat morning.

Leaving the pulpit has been a period of adjustment; and among those adjustments is how I do Shabbat.  Leaving behind the pressures and obligations of pulpit life has allowed me to explore other ways of practicing Shabbat and so last month Laurie and I drove to Kindred Spirits Care Farm. And there I was on a beautiful Shabbat morning shoveling mulch into a wheelbarrow and moving it into a large animal pen with pigs, goats, sheep, a dog and two alpacas (an animal with whom, I discovered to my surprise, I am absolutely fascinated.)  

This was a very different way of doing a Shabbat morning! And some would argue that it is not a particularly kosher, shabbat-like way either.  For some, sure. Not for me.  Working at the farm brought me closer to animals. It also allowed me to be outside, in nature; and though not a synagogue in the traditional sense, nature is God’s sanctuary and to be outside and with these precious creatures felt…sacred.  

In addition, the Torah of Kindred Spirits, the teaching at their core, is compassion.  We rescue animals and nature from abuse and they, in turn, rescue us.  This is the basis of a healthy, proper relationship that heals the soul. It connects us to a deeper part of ourselves and our world in a way that nourishes us, and the animals and environment around us.  It brings a taste of shalom.

Much of the work we do at Shamayim is a direct or indirect attempt to have people eat less, and ideally no, animal products.  We study, we talk, we debate.  One element missing in our education is the actual connection between us and the farm animals we seek to serve.  Sanctuary farms provide us an avenue of connection that brings us face to face with these precious creatures.  It adds a dimension to our dietary decisions that make them all the more compelling and real.  

And me…well, having left the pulpit, I look forward to spending Shabbat mornings in all sorts of different sanctuaries, wherever they may be. 

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