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“Let Us…” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

October 13, 2023 | 28 Tishrei 5784

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings. This week has brought us to a very low and devastating place. We will gather together tonight for comfort and strength. May these words that follow help to lift us ever so slightly as we make our way toward Shabbat and one another. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

In the beginning, there was only possibility.
Formless water
Shapeless wind
Indistinguishable darkness
Filling an empty void of nothingness.
God molded the world,
shined light into the darkness,
gathered the water and placed it above and below,
swirled the wind to move over the grasses and vegetation.
And at the peak of this sacred work
invited the universe:
Let us make a human in our image, after our likeness…
In the image of God, God created the human being. (1:26-27)

With all the shaping and fashioning of creation,
the human emerged as a group project,
the connective tissue of all of humanity.
It took the whole world to ensure that the image of God
and the universe
resulted in a human being
who held the whole world in that existence.

Perhaps, this is why the rabbis declared that to kill a life
is as if the whole world is destroyed.
and to save a life is to save the whole world. (Sanhedrin 37a)

Therefore every life matters.
Every life is precious.

But then Cain kills his brother Abel.
Out in the field, in cold blood.
“Sin couches at the door.”

The death pierces the Divine.
Who inquires but knows the answer already.
“Where is your brother Abel?”
The heart of the world is broken now.
You say, “I do not know?”
And worse, you take no responsibility.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The tissue of creation woven into the humanity
of each living soul has been severed.
“What have you done?”
Can you not hear his cry?
“Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” (4:8-10)

In such an ancient story, we relive it again and again,
For those who do not care whether they have responsibility
to show concern for their brother, their sister, their connection
to another human being,
who murder in cold blood without regard,
in fields, in homes, in safe rooms, on the street,
who place innocents in harm’s way
God will inquire, “What have you done?”
Those murdered, their blood will cry out from the ground into eternity.

Those who murder are left to wander and to wonder
whether the question is the answer:
I am my brother’s keeper.  I am responsible.

And we remain, the human and humane remnant to find meaning
not in the deaths of the guilty
but because of the murder of the innocent.
Not just to pray for peace but to find the path toward
a world shaped, molded, and fashioned
through the lens of creation
where in that moment of Divine brilliance
the universe partnered with God
to form a world filled with the possibility from the beginning
with that which is and can be good again.

So may it be. Lu Yehi.

Shabbat Shalom!

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  • Tonight at 6:00 p.m. Qabbalat Shabbat. Gather with us onsite or online (via ZoomFacebook Live, or livestream on our website). We will gather together as an act of solidarity and support for Israel. If you are joining us online, stay on Zoom for an online oneg. Please note that we have increased the safety and security presence at our building for Qabbalat Shabbat tonight. Please anticipate a few minutes delay when entering the building for a security check, and if at all possible we ask that you leave bags at home.
  • Tonight at 7:00 p.m. October Riverway Shabbat. Join us onsite or online for a relaxed, musical Qabbalat Shabbat service. For those attending onsite, join us for schmoozing and nosh at 7:00 p.m. before the 7:30 p.m. service, and stay after for dinner, drinks, and more schmooze. Please register to attend onsite.
  • Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Torah Study (onsite or online).
  • Tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. Havdalah and Connection (lay-led). Stop by, say hello, catch up from the week, and say goodbye to Shabbat together (online).

Rabbi Elaine Zecher