Hi everyone. This week has seemed never-ending, just a blur of one unstructured day into another and one news update after another. I don’t know how you’re coping.
In our home, we’ve made a schedule to help give our lives more structure. It’s been a big improvement, but it’s definitely challenging to maintain.
But I’m here to tell you that this never-ending week
ending. Shabbat will enter our lives shortly and give us the opportunity to affirm that on a certain level everything really is alright, that we can take a day to disconnect from all of the craziness and anxiety and feel our minds and our bodies start to relax and release.
Our Torah reading this week is a double portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei. The bulk of the portion is an account of the work of building the Mishkan, God’s portable dwelling place in the Israelite camp. But the beginning and end of the portion
are really about Shabbat.
The portion opens with the instruction:
שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒
וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ
שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַה׳׃
“Six days, work will be done,
but on the seventh day - you will have holiness,
Shabbat, a great or complete Shabbat
Even the urgent and sacred work of building a dwelling place for God’s presence and a place of worship ceases on Shabbat. According to the understanding of the rabbis of the Talmud, it is
the work that we did to build the Mishkan that we abstain from doing in order to sanctify Shabbat.
Receiving Shabbat is a lot like meditating. Our lives are busy and full. Our minds race.
We jump from task to task and topic to topic. We multi-task and try to be as efficient as possible. And we’re successful doing many things that way.
But if we want to meditate, we have to slow down. We have to allow distracting thoughts to drop out of our minds. We have to allow our breathing to slow and deepen.
Our thinking also slows and deepens. Our heart rate slows. And, if we stick with it, we start to perceive differently. We experience our bodies, our minds, the world, with more sensitivity, subtlety, and awareness.
Building the Mishkan is about creating a physical, external space to receive God’s presence. Shabbat is about creating an internal, spiritual space for the same. Our portion, which concludes the book of Exodus, ends with a description of God’s presence filling the Mishkan like a cloud. I want to invite you to bring this image into the onset of Shabbat.
I’m going to chant the last 5 verses of the portion now. Feel free to follow along at the link in this email or below the video:
Chant Exodus 40:33-38
The cloud that descends is not in Moshe’s control
or any person’s control.
It is a gift.
It manifests of its own accord
once a space has been prepared for it,
once the people have made themselves and their camp
ready to receive it.
This Shabbat, may we each make ourselves ready for a cloud, and enveloping presence,
and a sense of wholeness, peace, and well-being to descend upon us.