Every Sabbath is like a Family Day for the Corenblums

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 15, 2006


"I love that we can jump off the world for a while and enjoy a new dimension of holiness and family togetherness." —Sandy Corenblum

"If we don't have peace in the home, how are we going to have peace in the world?" asked Jenica Ashlie, the subject of last week's column, who uses her expertise as a relationship coach to promote quality time between parents and children.

Your responses provide a fitting prelude to celebrating the Feb. 20 Alberta Family Day.

Reflecting on her own struggle with the dangers of what Jenica calls "hurried-woman syndrome," Calgary coffee companion Jeanne Hammer wrote: "My number one priority in life has always been my family, and for that 'my cup runneth over.'"

From Mumbai, India, Raj Patwardhan, another e-mail regular at our "coffee table," wrote: "The more people agree with this viewpoint and integrate it into their lifestyles, the better this world will be. It's like lighting a few lamps, and those lamps in turn lighting more lamps, to spread the light of love and chase the darkness away."

From Ontario, sage octogenarian Helen Hare wrote: "This sounds like a very touching and effective lady, and I hope her words of wisdom can be spread far and wide. What a difference it would make in this world of dysfunctional families."

Then there's this enthusiastic response from Sandy Corenblum, our column's advisor in Jewish matters and a passionate advocate for quality family life:

"Fabulous, absolutely fabulous," she wrote. "I am so moved by the imagery of peanut butter sandwiches being like hugs in the home, the coffee-cup imagery for peace in the home. We call it in Hebrew shalom bayit. Shalom means "peace," of course, and bayit means "home." It is something to strive for and live by."

Let me tell you a bit more about Sandy, for, as one of my treasured mentors in life, she has exemplified an especially beautiful gift she has inherited from her tradition: God's gift of the Sabbath.

Sandy and her husband, Calgary endocrinologist Bernie Corenblum, live very full lives and could easily fall victim to the familial disconnection of professional busy-ness, if it were not for the lifestyle of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath in Jewish tradition is the day of rest, one day in seven, that begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown the next day– 24 hours uninterrupted by the usual affairs of the world. The phone is turned off; car keys are stashed in a drawer. The holiness of familial wholeness is everything.

I asked Sandy if she'd comment on the importance of the Sabbath to her, and here's her reply:

About the Sabbath we always say that "it is not we who keep the Sabbath, but rather the Sabbath who keeps us." The Sabbath Queen invites us to rest our weary bodies and weary souls and recharge our batteries after a hectic week of work. All of our senses are heightened. The smell of fresh-baked chalah bread to bless the Sabbath smothers the home. Chicken soup and a rich assortment of gourmet Jewish delicacies to tempt the heart and tummy are evident in every corner of the kitchen. The sparkle of the newly polished candlesticks and wine goblets; tables set with finery and flowers.

There is no TV or noise to disturb the sanctity of the Sabbath. The sounds heard are of those voices lifted in song and prayer. Sharing special readings, from Harry Potter to Psalms, to Archie comics, to Time Magazine and Jerusalem Report is a fine hour for our family after dinner. The gathering of the family around the Sabbath table on Saturday afternoons to play board games – writing is forbidden – and crack nuts and eat sweets is a favourite hour of mine.

I love that we can jump off the world for a while and enjoy a new dimension of holiness and family togetherness.

The thing I hear most in my heart each Friday is God's promise to us: "If you will but keep my covenant with thee, I will make you as great as the stars in the sky." The stars seem to twinkle with greater intensity on Friday nights!

—Sandy Corenblum, Calgary

Thank you, Sandy, for the inspiration of your example and your tradition. May all of us who join you around our coffee table have one regular time that we also set aside especially for the sacred enjoyment of family togetherness.

© 2006 Warren Harbeck

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