This week we complete the reading of the book of Exodus as we read two sections of the Torah combined. On this Shabbat that we were asked to keep a social distance, we are conducting our ritual gatherings in cyberspace. It is a space that allows the creation of communities that enable us to close to each other while physically distant. This way we are sure to be following the Ministry of Health regulations for keeping at least the minimal social distance if not more.
“Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, ‘These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do: For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the Lord’”. This is according to the reading from the Torah. The Haftarah reading is in part as follows: “Thus all the work that King Solomon performed in the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things dedicated by his father David, the silver and the gold and the utensils, and he put them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord. Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ households of the sons of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the city of David, which is Zion.” In both cases the people were assembled together for the purpose of celebration and giving thanks.
I have no doubt that the divine spirit that encompasses our synagogues is missed by all of us. It is it that opens the doors of the Shabbat for us, and it is what helps us though the entire week ahead. We would like you to feel at least some of this by thinking of the words of the section of “Nitsavim” where we read “You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God… Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today.” This way a broad community is born that transcends not only space but also time.
These are extraordinary times that we will weather together despite the physical distance. We will continue to congregate at our congregation and other congregations of the Movement, all done in the virtual cyberspace that we can make use of these days. I do hope that we these challenging times will be over not before long and thereafter we will be able to get back to our regular agenda. Maybe stronger, without doubt, better.
It is an opportunity to ask you all to continue to be in touch with other members of the congregations. Rabbi Edgar Nof, the Rabbi of the “Natan Ya” Congregation, together with all of the other rabbis of the Reform Movement, are there to assist all of you. They will do so regardless of your congregational affiliation. Rabbi Nof and I will do our best to make sure that until such time that we can reconvene at our physical synagogue that we have Facebook services of sorts. Please join us, share the links, listen in, chant and sing along. You are also kindly invited to join the broadcasts of the Reform Movement in cyberspace (reform.org.il) providing “Inspiration During the Corona Days”. You will also find there in the days to come a few of my talks about modern poetry in Hebrew, “A Poem for the Day” and “A Poem for the Night” which should upload in the next few days. It will be great if you could join me for that.
This Motsei Shabbat, Shimon Smith from Beit Daniel and I will broadcast an online Havdalah. I hope to see you there too. And for now…
Shabbat Shalom and wishes for good health to all.
Reuven Marko, 20 March 2020, 25 Adar, 5780