Shabbat As A Sacred Practice: Interview with Rabbi Joshua Warshawsky

We are happy to share a special interview with you from Rabbi Joshua Warshawsky where he shares about alot of things, including his approach to Shabbat as a sacred practice and how this relates to The Jewish Planner.

Rabbi Josh Warshawsky is a nationally touring Jewish musician, song leader, and composer. Josh builds intentional praying communities, and travels to synagogues, camp and schools across the country sharing his music and teachings on prayer. He is originally from Chicago, and has released three albums of Jewish music. Josh’s melodies are written intentionally to express the deep meaning of the words of our tradition. Josh was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles.

When I first met Josh at Pearlstone a few months ago, we discovered we were fans of each other’s work. Not a bad way to become real life friends.

Josh told me, “I love this project. I think the layout is so gorgeous. I love the artistic renderings and drawings that live on the pages. I love the verse snippets on the weekly spread pages, and I love the idea of the teachings each month. This calendar takes the concept of a planner and makes it so much more intentional. It allows the calendar to move from a chain holding us down to a work of art that adds meaning to our lives. Everyone should have one!”

I wanted to know what Josh has gained in his life from learning about the Hebrew calendar. He said, “The Hebrew calendar is such a powerful idea, linked deeply to nature and the world around us. Living my life around it provides moments of deep connection and introspection and also keeps me linked to my community of faith all over the world. In my mind, Judaism is a religion of awareness. Saying brachot (blessings) is about noticing the awe-some and amazing things in the world around us and making an intentional moment about them. The Hebrew calendar helps us do this on a macro level, taking time to reflect, notice the bounty in our lives, andfind ways to course correct in the lead-up to the next holiday.”

I love thinking of Judaism as a religion of awareness, as Josh does. And this project for Amanda and me has been an effort of becoming more aware: of Jewish principles, of nature, of the tension and need for reconciliation between the Hebrew and Gregorian ways of marking time. This insight from Josh frames our efforts as aligned with Judaism in practice, which is something I intuitively felt but hadn’t totally acknowledged.

photo by Aleya Cydney (IG @aleyacydneyphotos)

“As a rabbi and prayer leader, my whole life revolves around Shabbat; preparing for Shabbat, connecting and building relationships with communities and creating new liturgical music, and so this spread really reflects a way for me to visualize my week and take control of what I need to prepare personally, professionally, and spiritually to bring my week into Shabbat. I love the layout of The Jewish Planner, especially the circular nature of the weekly spread because of how it helps me envision Shabbat.”

Josh shared with me how time and cycles are important to his Judaism by returning to the importance of Shabbat, “The idea of Shabbat, of taking a day each week to rest, really the entire concept of a “weekend” comes from our Jewish tradition. The first chapter of the Bible teaches about the creation of the world and the idea that the Holy One rested after six days. The world wasn’t complete after those six days, it had only just begun! We learn from this that rest is a part of the work! We cannot work nonstop. We must take time to recharge. And that recharge allows us to have the strength to continue the work when Shabbat ends. This idea of rest within work is inherently Jewish. And so time and cycles guide my entire being. Each week cycles through until we reach Shabbat, and each month beginning with rosh chodesh gives us new opportunity to energize for the days ahead.”

If you want to learn more about Josh’s work and check out the music he writes to inspire meaning and connection to our tradition and Hebrew language, go to https://joshwarshawsky.com. Each piece on his website has resources, stories, and chords to allow you to take these melodies back to your own communities and let them guide you in your own life. Josh is recording a new album of Jewish music in March 2020! Here’s one of the new melodies. Here’s a video of Josh working his magic.