Parashat Emor

Friday, May 8, 2020 /14 Iyar, 5780
Parashat Emor Leviticus 21:1-24:23

[For] six days, work may be performed, but on the seventh day, it is a complete rest day, a holy occasion; you shall not perform any work. It is a Sabbath to God in all your dwelling places. (Leviticus 23:3)

My love affair with Shabbat began as a teenager. When the weather was warm enough, I woke up early so that I could walk the four and a half miles to Shabbat morning services, with a Tallit and water bottle in hand. Achad Haam famously said, “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” As I walked through the streets of Brooklyn, I understood why. The air felt different. It was less expectant and more sacred. After a hectic week, a long walk in the fresh air (well, somewhat fresh—it was Brooklyn, after all) was leisurely and reverential. I took the time to notice birds chirping, children playing, and people holding doors open for one another.

I purposely routed my walk through Kings Highway, an orthodox community in which I was sure to see young men walk to shul with their fathers, who were draped with tallitot (prayer shawls). I smiled and waved, and occasionally received a “Shabbat Shalom” greeting in response to my own. We were so different in our Jewish practice, and yet something sacred was shared.

“Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind, and imagination,” wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in his stunning book The Sabbath. “The seventh day is a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, of joy, and of reticence.”

All week we had labored. We had taken part in the business of life, and now we had entered a palace in time. On Shabbat, time stands still, and all that’s left is what matters most: community, relationships, sacred connection, and gratitude.

Even when we cannot leave our doors, or step into our stunning temple building, Shabbat remains a sacred connector. Some of us mark it now with zoom services or zoom candle lightings. Others will festive Shabbat meals, long walks, meditation, or study. Others may mark it with quality family time, and time for meaningful reflection. However we enter this palace in time, let us make the most of it. It is a sacred gift. Throughout the ages, Achad Haam teaches “Shabbat has kept the Jews.” So too may it keep us spiritually grounded, and emotionally refreshed.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Cassi Kail