THE 'ONEG SHABBAT
And thou shalt call the sabbath a delight ( Isa. 58.13).
WHEN Aḥad Ha-'Am defined the primary function of the Jewish Homeland in Palestine as a spiritual and cultural center for the Jewish people, he surely did not expect that one of the first practical demonstrations of his ideal would take the form of a Sabbath gathering known as the 'Oneg Shabbat. According to Aḥad Ha-'Am, the Jewish Homeland was to serve the scattered Jewish communities as the heart serves the organs of the body. Palestine as a cultural and spiritual center was to strengthen and quicken the spirit of the Jew everywhere by disseminating a stimulating and creative influence. Strangely enough, the first direct spiritual influence to emanate from Palestine and reach an appreciable part of the American Jewish community was not through an academy of learning but through the 'Oneg Shabbat. This institution has spread among the Jewish communities outside of Palestine and has come to be the first direct, visible influence of Palestine on world Jewry.
The phrase 'Oneg Shabbat, which means "Sabbath delight," is not a recent addition to the Hebrew language. It is as old as the Bible, for the prophet Isaiah urged the Hebrews to "call the Sabbath a delight." The phrase referred