Hello to all Friends and Members of Temple Beth Shalom -
I hope everyone is holding up in these unusual and difficult times. The biggest single message I would like to send is that if you are feeling isolated in your practice of social distancing, just remember that your are not alone. You may feel alone, but you are not. We are all in this together, and actually it is at times like this that we get to see how much we are interconnected and interdependent. So as much as possible we can each try to think of this time as an extended spiritual retreat which we can use to gain some greater perspective on our lives.
As we do so, do not forget about the role of joy in our lives. Joy is life-sustaining, which is perhaps why it is said that Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (late 18th and very early 19th century) taught that Being Joyful is the Greatest Mitzvah of all. In time like this, when joyful situations do not necessarily happen by themselves, it becomes all the more important that we act consciously and with intention to be joyful. We must remind ourselves of everything we have to be grateful for, and go out of our way to engage in those things we can that bring us joy.
As we approach the end of this week, we approach Shabbat. Most of us will be spending this Shabbat, as with most of the coming days, physical rather alone at least in regard to our space. But in regards to our time is another matter. Shabbat is thought of in Jewish life as a palace in time (rather than a palace in space). When we enter into Shabbat we are sharing the same period of time with the entire Jewish People all around the world. Even when we are not in the same space, we are in the same time. The time of Shabbat is intended in Jewish tradition to be a palace shaped by distinctiveness, rejuvenation and joy. It is separate from all the rest of the week so we do things (and also don’t do things) to set it aside as different from all other days and as a distinct practice that we share with the entire Jewish world. It is restful in the sense that we avoid doing things that drain us energetically and seek out things that are rejuvenating. It is marked by joy (one word for joy in Hebrew is “Oneg” which some of you will recognize in connection to Shabbat), so we seek out things that bring peace and happiness into our lives.
Each week with Shabbat we celebrate connection with each other, rejuvenation and joy. There has hardly been a time in the lives of most of us when we had a greater need for and greater access to a religious practice like Shabbat. More than ever we need to remind ourselves of what brings us joy, of what rejuvenates us and of how we really are connected to each other. So at this point in history let us embrace this part of our shared heritage and enter into Shabbat together even in our physical isolation.
Secondly - but absolutely no less important - we have received a request from the Jewish Home, as follows:
The Jewish Home has imposed a ban on visitations, which leaves our residents feeling very isolated. If you can get word out to your congregants and constituents and even your staff who may not be working as many hours as they were before the pandemic, here is a simple request. If they can send a card or note with an inspirational message to our residents, it will be uplifting for residents in both buildings. If anyone has young children, they could color or paint a picture that could be shared with residents.
Anyone interested can address their card, note or picture to:
Resident (via Activities Department)
The Campus of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg
4000 Linglestown Road
Harrisburg, PA 17112
Here is yet another Mitzvah that we can do in the community while still staying at home. One Mitzvah involves Tikkun HaNefesh, repair of the soul, and the other involves Tikkun Olam, repair of the world. But given how Repair of the Soul and Repair of the World are themselves so entirely intertwined, both of these mitzvoth contribute to both types of of Tikkun.
I wish everyone a Shabbat Shalom, a time of peace, joy and connection in these trying and isolating times. Let us stay connected in spirit and through communication. Let us utilize this moment to find ways to be more in touch with ourselves and to better recognize our connections with each other.
Take care of yourselves and each other. Zei Gezunt (which is Yiddish for “Stay Healthy”) and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Carl Choper