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Shabbat Pesach

04/10/2020 02:12:42 PM


         Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom! This week our regular Parashat HaShavua goes on hold to read Pesach/Festival Torah portions. This Shabbat we read two Torah readings for our Chol HaMoed Pesach readings, one section from Exodus chapter 33, and the other from Numbers 28. 

         The latter reading reminds us that a festival is to be a holy time, a time to abstain from work, to treat like a special Shabbat. When Chag starts on a Wednesday, what a great excuse to take most of this week as a breather! Whatever your level of observance, chag is a good time to pause and allow yourself a break from work-work. I know that for me, this quarantine is totally throwing off my sense of time and my normal types of productivity. At first, I was feeling really compelled to fill the rest of that time with more projects, webinars, etc. I felt like I needed to make something of this time, like I had to prove something (?) to someone (?). The feeling was real even if completely illogical. This week, I'm taking advantage of the chag to stop that. Obviously, I'm not completely observing a strict/traditional understanding of malacha, because I'm still using electronics. But I haven't done any webinars this week, and I've allowed myself more time to just read some good fiction and to play animal crossing, declaring this my Spring Break, as it would normally be if I was still teaching and keeping a typical schedule. I highly recommend it, to the most that your own work scheduling allows.


         Take this Shabbat, or the last day of Pesach, as a special time for you. Drink deep from Miriam's Well, and refresh yourself. Do something blissful. May you take excellent care of yourself and have a peaceful holiday Shabbat!


          Meanwhile, the other festival reading from Exodus 33 tells us about God and Moses setting up the parameters of their new relationship and the new relationship between God and all of the Children of Israel. We just heard these verses read not too long ago in Parashat Ki Tisa, the last Shabbat we spend together in person before the quarantine. One thing jumped out at me anew this week, though, that continues with the theme of last week’s teaching as well. Last week, we read Parashat Tzav, from the beginning of Leviticus. The context is completely different from this week’s flashback reading into Exodus. However, just as last week was about the limits to the priests’ ability to serve as an intermediary between the people and God, this week we learn that even other celestial beings are insufficient when the people really need some face-to-face guidance from the Almighty personally.

            Among the verses is the line, “And Moses said to God, ‘Unless You go in the lead, do not make us leave this place.’” Rashi expands on this: “For if it is to be done by an angel, don’t bother bringing us up out of here.” Moses and the Israelites are fresh out of slavery, haven’t yet fully experienced redemption or received the commandments. They need the direct guidance of God, and will not accept any intermediaries yet, neither priests nor angels.

            Despite the chaos and uncertainty in the world right now, there is an opportunity to seek out silence and introspection in this time of forced isolation. Take this time to look inward and connect with your understanding of the Divine Presence. Try meditating, praying, reading some theology and philosophy, whatever helps you find your direct line to your own spirituality. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. Once in rabbinical school I told my spiritual director that I was so busy trying to “do Jewish” that I didn’t actually felt God’s presence in a visceral way as often as I had when I was younger. She told me to stare into the void that had once been my direct relationship to God. It was extremely helpful in reconnecting myself to my spirituality. So, if you don’t know where to start, start with the not knowing.

            May you find yourself led forth out of the narrow space of your quarantine (in due time) by a Divine light, and may we all find fulfillment in our hectic lives. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.

Sat, August 8 2020 18 Av 5780