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While Pandemic Separates Us, Shabbat Unites Us

“More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Achad Ha’am

This Shabbat, March 20, 2020, has special meaning.  It’s the first Shabbat of Spring, yes, a new season is here following the darkness of winter. And although the days are lighter, and the pink magnolias bloom on the tree in my front yard and yellow daffodils pop up in my neighbors’ yards, the entire world seems to be in darkness from the coronavirus pandemic. The world has come to a stop.  For Jewish people, the Sabbath has always been a time stop.  From sundown to sunset, a 25-hour state of mind, we stop our ordinary working lives and just be in the moment. We focus on what matters most. We disconnect in order to connect. And now the rest of the world is catching on. On Shabbat, we light candles, be grateful, drink wine, eat a festive meal, read, pray, love, play. The only difference on this Shabbat is that we can’t connect with our neighbors, communities, synagogues, at least not physically. We can connect socially, and we must, whether we talk on the phone, face time on the computer, join a zoom comference, or even write a letter or send a card to someone special. On this Shabbat, we are reminded who is in control, and that is God. We ask God to give the health care people who are taking care of us the wisdom and strength to do their job. God is calling on us to focus on what really matter, the health and well being of ourselves, our families, each other.

We may be sitting a little farther apart at our big round copper table, but we are together, and the flickering candles remind us why we are here.  On this first Shabbat of Spring, we are reawakening.

  • Schools are closed. But learning is in session. Abundant opportunities to gain Torah knowledge, insight and inspiration from world renowned teachers, Rabbis, our favorite Momentum leaders, OPEN!
  • Museums and zoos are closed. Outdoors, our own neighborhoods, virtual tours of everywhere from the Smithsonian in Washington DC to the Louvre in Paris, and many national parks, OPEN!
  • Restaurants are closed for dine in. Our kitchens are OPEN, and today challah is in the oven, and plenty of our favorite places are open for curbside pickup. 
  • Bars are closed.  OPEN a bottle of bubbly and make a La’Chaim!
  • Live concerts at public venues are cancelled. Making our own music and listening to our favorite artists perform live in the intimacy of their own homes are OPEN and FREE on Instagram and YouTube. Crank up the volume, whether it’s Louie Armstrong or Ishay Rivo, because we can sing and dance and elevate our mood in our very own house. No ticket needed, we’re all in this together.
  • Gyms are closed. Walking the dog, jogging through the neighborhood, sweating during an online fitness, yoga, Zumba class, OPEN!
  • All major league sports, closed. Watch your favorite team reruns of Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup…open.
  • Movie theatres, Broadway shows closed. Netflix, open, Broadway online, open. 
  • Libraries are closed. Books, so many books, and what better time to tap into the weekly Torah portion, OPEN. In fact, this week’s Parsha Vayakhel-Pikudei teaches us how Moses gathers the Jews together and enjoins them to observe and celebrate Shabbat and build the Tabernacle with gold, silver, gorgeous colored fabrics, etc. We are all a unique piece of fabric that makes up the tapestry in this world. 
  • Synagogues, places of worship, closed. Religious leaders of all backgrounds are answering the calling during this unprecedented time, offering their virtual teachings. Prayer, meditation, intropection, Torah study by ourselves or with a group online, OPEN.

Now is a time for healing and on this Shabbat we can say the Mi Sheberach, which literally means “The One Who Blesses.” This central Jewish prayer asks for a physical cure as well as spiritual healing, blessing, compassion, restoration, and strength, within ourself, a family member, a friend, community, our country, our world… because all humankind needs a prayer right now.Be home. Be well. Be safe. Be with family. Be.

Shabbat shalom.