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Study and Theory/

Shimon S.

Ideology, Culture and Shabbat

This time I wish to write (something that seldom occurs to me) about a question that has been bothering me for several years, and although it is not particularly practical nowadays, I think it would be a good idea if we pay attention to it. I am referring to an issue that I define as the cultural life in our Kibbutz, and particularly the Shabbats.

When I was in school and at the time I was involved with the movement I had heard and read about many ways to define culture. From all of these definitions I learned one thing: The culture of a society is its practical – spiritual manifestation on weekdays and holidays to the values it believes in.

I learned something else as well – that the culture of man and society is more important than their ideology – since ideology is confined to the thoughts of an individual and to the words of the lecturers on holidays – while culture is alive and breathing at all times and in all places. When I encountered contradictions between ideology and culture, life experience has taught me that usually the ideology is untrue while culture is what prevails.

In order to illustrate my idea, I'll give you an example: Let's take for instance, a society that claims to promote equality of each individual – a society that believes in and respects every human being as such.  And suppose we spend a day with that society, and we notice people passing by each other and failing to greet each other; we take part in a conversation with some members of this society, and we find that these people do not allow others to express themselves, they intercept each other's speech, they wrangle, express their opinion without paying attention to other people's opinions. We had the right to ask, at the end of our visit: If you actually believe in human equality – why don't you practice this in your daily life? Why is there a contradiction between ideology and behavior? Or, do you, for some reason fail to acknowledge this incongruity?

I believe that the big test of our Kibbutz and the Kibbutz movement at large lays in our capability to design the image of true cultural life, that would express our ideology in our daily behavior and speech. The question is huge and comprehensive, and I am not in capacity to encompass it totally in this essay.  I will therefore condense it to a single detail – the Shabbat. The question of Shabbat and the answer we find to it, entails several fundamental solutions to our lifestyle. As a Jewish socialist society, we must not refrain from providing our expression of this ancient institution. May I take the liberty of giving an example of a dialogue between a Kibbutz member and his son (based on "The Small Prince" with my deviation and interpretation):


"What is Shabbat?" asked the son.


"This is also one of those things we have neglected too much", answers the father, "though this is an act that differentiates one day from the rest of the days and dedicates a single hour from all the other hours. If not for Shabbat, all the days would be similar and we would never merit to have a day of vacation and rest, and we would never enjoy the experience of a holiday."


This, in my eyes is the first value of Shabbat – the importance of not only providing a day of vacation and rest, but also to give a flavor to a day of work and labor. This is the socialist objective, and not only the socialist objective, the second purpose is the Jewish one. My predecessors have already mentioned: Throughout all of the ages the Shabbat guarded

Jews no less than Jews guarded the Shabbat.


A society as ours, that of workers, burdens its members with many obligations, but there must be a day, and due to the fact that we are Jewish, it must be Shabbat, in which we as individuals and all of us as a society elevate ourselves above the daily routine.


We must reestablish the Shabbat parties, the candle lighting ceremony and the social gatherings. I am aware of all of the attempts made in concern with Shabbat parties, some that had succeeded and others that had failed. I believe that the major reason for the failures was the attitude of the crowd: We came, and we waited for someone to entertain us, there is place for entertainment and amusement but on one condition: That we entertain and amuse ourselves – so that self-expression is maintained.


Shabbat is also an occasion for non-routine social discussions. We are a large and growing society, we have lots to learn and to hear from one another, and there is no better time for this than on Shabbat. I assume that if the culture committee resumes the Shabbat eves, and if the public arrives with a wish to spend time together and with the motivation to signify the fact that we are a society that believes in collective production, we would be able to guard the Shabbat and I am positive that in this way, the Shabbat would also guard us.

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