"More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews." Ahad Ha'am (Asher Ginsberg, poet, philosopher, 1856-1927)

This winter affords us an extra Jewish month; every two or three years a Jewish calendar leap year adds the two months of Adar (I and II) to keep the Jewish lunar year cycle in tandem with the solar calendar. During this time, the absence of a Jewish calendrical event or holiday allows us to reflect on the unfolding year. We may even pull back and look at what is essential to our daily routines, especially when Winter challenges our mobility and on-line schedules. More than ever, the weekly touchstone of Shabbat has become an oasis in our 24/7 culture and non-stop inundation of disconcerting tweets and political postings. These winter months invite us to feel gratitude for basic shelter, warmth and connection and to reflect on where we are with our self-care, spiritual practice, relationships and intellectual growth.

On the Yamim Noraim/Days of Awe, I shared with you about a focus we were taking this year on learning, on movement towards our purpose as a community, and individually. I mentioned on Yom Kippur a variety of areas I was looking at individually and for us as a sacred community.  Our communal commitment to keep exploring issues of race/white privilege and re-engaging with issues around Israel-Palestine has resulted in meaningful conversations and some action throughout the Fall. We have benefitted from our annual Human Rights and MLK Shabbat weekends, including the recent return of Rabbi Brian Walt. We'll continue this February, designated nationally as Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, to deepen our learning and living in issues around inclusion, at a Shabbat service February 9th that Rabbi Yael, Rabbi Joysa and Gabby will be designing, as well as additional programs in our Hebrew school that month.

Throughout it all, Shabbat remains at the core of our mission and Jewish life. The Talmud (Shabbat 10b) states that Shabbat was a precious treasure gifted to us. Two different words, Shamor v’Zachor (Keep and Remember), were used in relation to Shabbat the two times the Ten Commandments are written in the Torah. The Sages teachs that this directs us both in commitment and spiritual discipline (Shamor) as well as staying connected to Shabbat as a universal dynamic for balance and well-being (Zachor).

We know from B’reshit/Genesis 2:1, that Shabbat is the Day the “Generator of Creation” paused to re-ensoul and integrate all that had been created. Shabbat was dedicated to building a relationship with the Divine, and reconnecting and renewing our deepest selves after a week of laboring in the physical world. One of the greatest benefits of Shabbat has always been family and community, whether in tikkun hanefesh (renewing of the soul/self) or tikkun olam (renewing/repairing of the world). Even a portion of the 25 hours together, a meal, an unplugging-- claiming some shabbat on Shabbat can aid our well-being and help us feel more connected to each other in gratitude, shared experience, mutual support and ongoing soul growth.

There are also a number of Shabbat policies we developed as a community over the years which are public on our website, and articulate the process and values-set behind our policies. The practices and customs of Shabbat in our communal setting, revised by our Spiritual Life Council this past year, are posted on the third floor outside and chapel and sanctuary.

I invite you all to engage with Rabbi Yael, myself and each other in exploring what Shabbat is for you in your life, your home, here at Mishkan Shalom and what Shabbat consciousness and contemporary Shabbat practice might be for you.



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