- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On July 15, 2016
- 0 Comments
Welcome again to “Shabbat Awakenings,” a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
After all of the events of last week, from Baton Rouge to St. Paul to Dallas, I wanted to turn toward hope this week. But I don’t think we are there yet. Grief and mourning course through our cities and towns. And then Nice happened, taking us perhaps even further into sadness and reflection.
I start, instead, with Shabbat or rather the end of Shabbat.
As Shabbat finishes, there is a ritual called Havdalah. With a braided candle, a cup of wine, and a container of spices, we create a divide between the experience of Shabbat and the rest of the week. Through this kind of separation, we make it holy.
What happens, however, when a separation or a divide is not holy?
These past weeks, we have heard many speak about another kind of divide. Many worry whether the difference is so immense that we could never overcome it. Rather than a sacred separation, have we created a gulf too wide to repair? We may have even reached out only to be rebuffed or pushed away. It is a rupture in need of great healing in our own lives, in our communities, and surely in our own country.
This week, my friend and colleague, Rabbi David Stern, who serves a congregation in Dallas, wrote these words:
…The God who heard the cry of the oppressed requires us to listen – to narratives of racism, to exposures of white privilege and educational inequities and mythic meritocracies. We do not need to agree with everything we hear, but we need to hear it. And when that hearing produces pain, then we need to feel it. And if that pain motivates us to create a more just and safe society instead of silencing the truths that disturb us, we will know that we have broken through the silence towards hope. The books of the Hebrew prophets are fundamental to our identity as Jews, but they do not make good bedtime reading. This healing will sting before it salves. (Haaretz 7.14.2016)
Rabbi Stern’s sentiments echo the prophet, Isaiah, which we read on Yom Kippur: Is this not the fast I look for: to unlock the shackles of injustice, to undo the fetters of bondage, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every cruel chain? [When you act in this way] your light shall blaze forth like the dawn, and your wounds shall quickly heal…Your people shall rebuild the ancient ruins, and lay the foundations for ages to come. You shall be called, ‘Repairer of the breach…” (Isaiah 58)
How can each of us be a repairer of that breach? This is a different kind of power, a different kind of strength. It is the determination to live a life of consequence. There is surely a need for each of us, no matter our personal circumstance, to make new and different choices and to rededicate ourselves to very old ones as well. It is often hard to appreciate the significance of one small improvement we can make in the world, but at least we can know that doing so is not out of our reach. Yet even as there are many pathways and perspectives, many individual choices and private reflections, we still need each other to get there. It is part of a received heritage our tradition bestows upon us. What we lay in this generation is the foundation for the next.
In the coming weeks and months, we will need to figure out how to act together, to bring communities face to face with one another, and to lift up compassion and understanding for each other.
As we enter the sacred separation of this Shabbat, let us listen and hearken to the pain and the sting, so that we may rise up to be the builders and repairers of a breach desperately summoning us toward healing and hope.
If you are in town, come celebrate Shabbat together and join us for Qabbalat Shabbat INSIDE with plenty of singing, learning, praying, thinking, and cool air.
Please feel free to connect with me here. I would be honored to learn of your own reflections and response.