‘Venishmartem me’od lenafshoteichem’ The Torah teaches us to take the utmost care of our own – and other people’s- lives.
The Talmud teaches that in matters of civil law ‘The law of the land is the law’
Please be sure to follow guidelines carefully and strictly to protect yourself, your family and our entire society.
A special Shabbat Shalom to everyone in this unnerving and perplexing changed reality. Below my greeting you will find details about this Shabbat what we are offering.
Two passages of Torah have been on my mind; one joyous, one sad. I want to end with the latter, so I’ll begin with what’s harder.
‘Badad yesheiv – alone shall s/he sit:’ these words describe the fate of those who have the infection; in the Torah it’s nega-tzaraat, often translated as leprosy by which everyone was afraid of being contaminated. The phrase is echoed later in the Hebrew Bible at the beginning of the Scroll of Lamentations, where it refers to Jerusalem, the beautiful city under siege, lonely and locked out of the human community.
Many people around us are in self-isolation, in quarantine, and some in hospital. Those ancient words ‘alone shall s/he dwell’ have a deeply resonant afterlife today. It is essential to acknowledge the fear and uncertainty which grips us all. However calm we may appear, I can’t imagine that any of us doesn’t have his or her lonely ‘what if?’ moments. I certainly do.
But – and I never knew I would be so grateful to online technology – today’s ‘alone’ is not alone. I have witnessed a surge of heart, a tide of spirit, expressed by email and what’s app, on skype and zoom, by phone and by text. It’s not just ‘remote’ technology, it’s palpable in the mind, heart and soul.
There’s a great deal of care and love not just ‘out there’, but around us and close to us. Perhaps because it’s happening worldwide, in our isolation we are in fact in profound solidarity. I pray that this will bear us up in our most trying hours. I pray for strength and health for us all and for each and every one of us as we try to help others. I pray for imagination, for good – and joyful – ideas of how to connect.
That leads me to the second text: ‘Ozzi vezimrah Yah – God is my strength and my music.’ Perhaps a better translation is ‘God’s music is my strength.’ This transport me in my thoughts to Israel, Italy and elsewhere, to the balcony choirs, each person not alone but united in the togetherness of music.
I often ask people about their music, not their Desert-Island-Disc favourite pieces, but their inner music. ‘How can I find strength?’ I’m frequently asked by friends and congregants in their hour of stress. In typical rabbinic fashion, I usually respond with a question: ‘What nourishes your spirit?’
Some people answer straight away: my family; nature; walking the dog; poetry; meditation; Beethoven’s Ninth. Others say they want to think about it. I always say: ‘Whatever it is which restores your inner strength, however great the pressure on your day, be absolutely sure you make time for it.’
What would your answer be? What’s mine? I believe that everyone has something special known to their soul which makes their spirit sing. We can’t always access it; we may need encouragement and help in restoring the inner quiet which guides us back to that chamber of our heart. But there within exists a melody and its music has the power to sustain and restore our resilience, even in the face of fear and pain.
In these challenging days, which are likely to continue for some while, we want our inner music and we need each other to help us find it.
Kabbalat Shabbat: Friday at 5.00pm at this link
Havdalah: Motzei Shabbat at 7.15pm at this link