Friday, March 20, 2020 /24 Adar, 5780
Parashat Vayak’heil-P’kudei Exodus 35:1–40:38
Yesterday, my son turned to me and asked, “Mom, what day is it exactly?” After several days of homeschooling, he lost track of the days of the week. Like many of us, these unprecedented times can be disorienting. Without the structure of our usual activities, the days can flow together.
I imagine that after leaving the structure of their workload in Egypt, the Israelites felt a similar sensation. Their regular routine had come to a screeching halt. After the people received the Ten Commandments, they strove to build their lives as desert-wanders. That included building a structure they could use to worship God. In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites begin to create a beautiful tabernacle. Before this project begins, Moses gathers the people and reminds them of God’s commandment: “On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Eternal…” (Exodus 35:2-3a)
Moses understood that they needed the regularity of Shabbat to give shape to their weeks. As the people adjusted to their new normal, Moses knew that the people needed a day of rest, reflection, and sacred connection to look forward to. So do we.
Throughout Jewish history, our people have been through pogroms and natural disasters, wars, immigration, and temple destructions. Through it all, Shabbat has been an anchor of hope and spiritual connection. Ahad Haam famously said, “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
We may not be able to celebrate Shabbat in person by praying in our beautiful sanctuary, or schmoozing during oneg, but we can still find ways to sanctify Shabbat. Whether we do so by joining our temple’s worship through Zoom or Facebook live, baking challah with loved ones, or face-timing with friends and relatives, let us all find ways to mark the day of rest.
This Shabbat, may we take the time to meditate, offer prayers, go for a walk in nature, read an inspiring book, or do an activity that nourishes our soul and replenishes us.
I wish you a fulfilling and meaningful Shabbat.
Rabbi Cassi Kail