This Shabbat will be different, but It can be a blessing.
Tonight, as the sun sets it will usher in a Shabbat that is different in many ways. The day that is dedicated to connections - with each other, with our souls, with God - is arriving during a time that we are rightly being warned to keep our distance from one another.
In a sense, though, as we are avoiding public spaces and gatherings, we can choose to see this time as one of opportunity. Maybe the paring down of external options can help us connect on a deeper level with those things Shabbat is really all about - our most intimate relationships, our inner being, and our connection to the Soul of all souls. Maybe we can find some precious solitude that makes more space for these things precisely because the external obligations and events that keep us so busy are postponed.
We all need some healing of our souls. The fear and uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus has stressed and strained us all, and Shabbat offers us an opportunity to find the peace we need to restore some sense of balance.
So, I encourage us all to embrace this Shabbat and see it as a Shabbaton, a respite from tension and worry, an island of calm, and a time of renewal. Take some time to be outdoors away from crowds and commune with nature. Draw closer to the members of your household and connect remotely with family and friends. As the beautiful poem below suggests, let's make this a time to feel deeply with our hearts and allow love to flow freely from our souls in all directions.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath-
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another's hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
(shared with us by Ronnie Weyl)
And let us all say: Amen!
Torah: Parashat Ki Tisa
The Torah portion for this Shabbat, Ki Tisa, contains the story of the Golden Calf, a great moment of crisis in our people's formative days. Thousands of years later, this incident remains an enigma. How could a people that personally experienced the Exodus from Egypt and witnessed the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai have such a profound lapse of faith as to make and worship a false god made of gold by human hands?
The poem below (shared by Sarah Gluck) offers the answer I find most convincing - one that is instructive to us at this moment when we face a global crisis of public health and safety. The Israelites experienced a viral outbreak of fear, and they let it get the better of them. Rabbi Yael Levy's words are wise and her advice is sage. Let us hear them with our hearts and embrace them with our souls.
When Fear Arises
Moshe had been gone from camp a long time
And the people became afraid--
When would he return?
Will he return?
Wasn't he supposed to be back already?
Fear spread throughout the community,
Until fear became all there was.
So the Israelites took their precious stones,
Their gold and silver,
And they fashioned something they thought
They could hold onto,
Something that would be definite and sure.
They made for themselves a god they could see and touch.
A god that would lead them
And would always keep them safe.
It is understandable that the Israelites grew afraid,
It is not surprising that fear spread
And led them astray.
Fear, as we know, is highly contagious.
Fear can make us forget what is important,
It can cause us to disregard what we know is true.
Fear can incite and justify behaviors that are damaging and cruel.
So what to do when fear arises?
Honor its presence and pause.
Breathe deeply and call forth an awareness of the Mystery
That comes through Compassion,
Graciousness, Patience, Love, Truth, Generosity and Forgiveness.
Let these attributes travel through the body,
With each breath, place them upon our hearts and before our eyes.
This might not dispel the fear,
And it won't chase it away once and for all.
But it will help calm the body
And give the mind, even for a few moments, a different focus.
Repeated enough, these attributes might find a stronghold
And become the foundation from which our thoughts and actions arise.
Let us be patient and kind with ourselves and each other,
As fear continues to rage.
And let us move slowly enough to be discerning
So we make choices that affirm our values
And stay true to all we love.
--Rabbi Yael Levy
May we all experience the peace and joy of this Shabbat. May it calm our troubled
spirits, may our hearts and homes be filled with love, and may God be with us
now and always.