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“The Long Way Home,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

January 14, 2022 / 12 Shvat 5782

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings as we make our way toward Shabbat.

You can listen to it as a podcast.

“The long and winding road,” sang the Beatles, may have reflected their complicated relationships and tensions, yet the image is a good reminder that the direct path is rarely an option.

Life takes us on circuitous and messy routes to get us where we want to go.

Just ask the Israelites who when they left Egypt, “God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer.” God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds.

Why? Because God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war and return to Egypt.” (Exodus 13:17-18)

Could this be the only reason that the direct route was not taken?

Was it tactical? Pharaoh had shown that he would change his mind? By making his army go the long way, did it wear them out by the time they arrived at the Sea of Reeds? Would their horses be too exhausted to make it through the mud between the parted waters?

Nehama Leibowitz acknowledged that the longer way around in spite of all its apparent disadvantages was to be preferred. She noted that many things which appear harmful on the surface prove in the long run advantageous.

Then, was it to build the muscles of resilience and tenacity as Moses Maimonides suggested in his Guide to the Perplexed? Could their long trek train them for greater tasks in the future? This would not be the last time that the ancient Israelites would be detoured in the desert wanderings. They had to get to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. They navigated around and through inhospitable regions and their arrival in the land of great promise was delayed by their own negative attitude.

The path is messy, complicated, and complex. Moving forward is what makes the difference.

As we enter this weekend focused on issues of justice, starting tonight with Shabbat Tzedek, we know that navigating through issues of justice can be messy, complex, and complicated. At times, it feels we are taken in a roundabout way and feel frustrated that we haven’t arrived.

We can overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words as part of his speech entitled, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1968. Just days later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. The desire to secure civil rights kept going despite great despair. The civil rights movement, the right to vote, the expectation to be regarded as a fellow human being with dignity and respect has taken the roundabout way, not by choice but by the lack of willingness of some to create a more perfect and just union.

As a congregation and as a part of the community of this city, state, and country, we will strengthen our muscles of resilience and tenacity, as Maimonides described, while we pull that arc of the moral universe closer to justice in the work we can do together.

  • We gather for Shabbat Tzedek with D.A. Rachael Rollins at 6:00 p.m. Join us onsite or on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • Shabbat Tzedek Torah Study will begin at 9:00 a.m. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • 10:00 a.m. Thank Goodness it’s Shabbat at home.  Please register here.
  • Shabbat Tzedek Havdalah will talk place at 8:00 p.m. Join on Zoom, or Facebook Live, or stream on our website.
  • 8:00 a.m. (or 11:00 a.m.) Shabbat Tzedek at Bethel AME Church. Join us and our neighbors at Bethel AME Church for their Sunday worship and MLK commemoration, joint sermon by Rabbi Zecher and Reverend Gloria White-Hammond, and breakout discussion groups with members of the Bethel AME community. We encourage you to attend the 8:00 a.m. service where more Bethel members will be in attendance. Please register to receive a link to the online service.

Connect with me here. I look forward to corresponding with you and to hearing your thoughts.

Shabbat Shalom!