- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On August 7, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move into Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
Each morning, I have a routine. When the alarm sounds, I reach for my phone. An email from The New York Times and CNN have already arrived in my inbox. Lying flat on my bed I hold the phone up so that my back and neck are aligned and straight while I catch the daily catastrophes.
Then I turn to the Talmud. Sometimes, the stories and discussions there, despite the reasoning of the arguments, bring comfort. Every morning through an email, I, along, with thousands of others, am participating in an international effort to study the Talmud page by page every day. It takes a seven-year cycle to get through it all. The new cycle began this year. We are just on the second book, entitled Shabbat. I’m studying through myJewishLearning.com. (You can, too!) It makes Talmud learning accessible for all. For 157 pages (with an “a” and “b” side) the intricate details of Shabbat are shared.
The page I recently studied contained a discussion whether planetary influence exists to provide wisdom and wealth. Rabbi Hanina asserted that it was true, but all the other rabbis of the discussion go to get lengths to maintain that the Jewish people are immune from planetary influence. And yet, the preceding discussions speak of how constellations of particular days or hours determine influence. For example, “one who is born under the constellation of Mercury will be of a retentive memory and wise.”
So what is it? Do we believe that the stars align in our favor and we benefit from their influence? The Hebrew word used for constellation is mazel as in mazel tov. When we congratulate, are we acknowledging that they benefitted from some astrological arrangement?
MyJewishLearning.com invites teachers to expound and interpret the page. Rabbi Carl Perkins of Temple Aliyah in Needham offered his explanation on Shabbat 156 on this very idea: “…as influential as the stars and planetary spheres may seem to be…[the text stresses…], there is no constellation for the Jewish people. The stars may influence, but they do not determine our fate.”
What decides our fate then? Rabbi Perkins references a story on the Talmud page:
“Rabbi Akiva had a daughter, and Chaldean astrologers told him that on the same day that she enters the wedding canopy, a snake will bite her and she will die. She was very worried about this. On her wedding day, she took the ornamental pin from her hair and stuck it into a hole in the wall for safekeeping, and it happened that it entered directly into the eye of the snake. In the morning, when she took the pin, the snake was pulled and came out with it.
Her father Rabbi Akiva said to her: What did you do to merit being saved from the snake?
She told him: In the evening a poor person came and knocked on the door, and everyone was preoccupied with the feast and nobody heard him. I stood and took the portion that you had given me and gave it to him.
Rabbi Akiva said to her: You performed a mitzvah.”
The constellation that influences the most is the configuration of our actions. According to the Talmud and hopefully through our own experiences, the sun, moon, and stars are no match for the impact of kindness, thoughtfulness, and empathy on our fate and destiny.
- Tonight at 6:00 p.m., we celebrate Shabbat virtually from the TI Garden, where members of the TI Clergy will lead Qabbalat Shabbat “together”, while physically distanced. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. You can find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
- The Village gathers at 5:00 p.m. for a Shabbat story and blessings HERE.
- Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. BYOBagel! To join the conversation interactively, access HERE to Zoom. You will be amazed by how well and easy it is to participate and comment. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Celebrate Shabbat as a family with TGIS with Wayne Potash at 10:00 a.m. HERE.
- Mark the end of Shabbat together with Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. Join us interactively HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE.