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“Just. Be. Here.” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

February 17, 2023 |  12 Shvat 5783


Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

God taught Moses about mindfulness meditation.

At the end of this week’s portion, after a litany of rules focused on just behaviors toward other people, animals, the earth, and the universe, God instructed Moses on what to do and how to be.

Come up to Me on the mountain and be there… (Exodus 24:18)

Rabbi Menahem Mendl of Kotzk, an early Hasidic master, wondered about the redundancy. He asked, “If Moses went up to the mountain, of course he would be there.” Menahem Mendl derived this teaching from the verse: This is proof that a person can exert tremendous effort to reach the top of a mountain, yet without being there. He may be standing on the mountain, but his head may be elsewhere. The main thing is not the ascent but being there, and only there, and not be below at the same time.

Moses’ life up to this point had been directed toward a future of freedom. He was in constant motion, focused on moving the people forward. When he ascended the mountain, God needed him to be present there, attentive to an intention to encounter the Divine.

Being present is not easy. Our minds are in perpetual motion, in constant comment and judgment about anything and everything. We are in conversation with the past, with someone else, with a future possibility, continually creating a story we concoct in our heads. In addition, the urgency of the outside world knocks on our mind’s door incessantly and brings anger, fear, and anguish with it.

The ancients gave us the gift of Shabbat to ascend to a sacred moment and to be there. They did not know of technology the way we do. Their screens did not buzz and blink, but they understood the power of attentive intention. The day invites us into the sacred by our ability to breathe and just be.

Come up to Me on the mountain and just be here.

Shabbat Shalom!

I look forward to greeting you at Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. and at Torah Study, which begins at 9:00 a.m. with a short Shabbat morning service, followed by a lively learning experience.

I’m grateful for your comments and responses. You can reach me here.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher