DAY 1300 — The Joy of Skipping from Shul to Shul, from Home to Home

January 21, 2016
By bethmordecai
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DAY 1300 — The Joy of Skipping from Shul to Shul, from Home to Home

Reflection on last week’s Friday night service and this week’s upcoming storm…

“דומה דודי לצבי” (שיר השירים ב:ט), מה צבי זה מדלג מהר להר מבקעה לבקעה מאילן לאילן ומסוכה לסוכה מגדר לגדר, כך הקב”ה מקפץ מבית הכנסת זה לבית הכנסת זה מבית מדרש זה לבית מדרש זה. כל כך למה? כדי לברך ישראל.

שיר השירים רבה פרשה ב

“My beloved is like a gazelle” (Song of Songs 2:9), Just as a gazelle skips from mountain to mountain, valley to valley, tree to tree, and dwelling to dwelling, fence to fence, so too the Holy One Blessed Be He skips from this synagogue to that synagogue, from this house of study to that house of study. Why? In order to bless Israel.

Song of Songs Rabbah Section 2

Dear Hevreh,

There’s a beautiful midrash I’ve taught many times before about how “Shalom Aleichem,” the opening anthem to the Friday night service, welcomes the angels that accompany us into our homes on Friday night. When the angels see that the family is observing Shabbat then they “bless us with peace” (barkhuni l’shalom), but when we are not observing Shabbat then they do not bless us (and some say “curse us”). This teaching reminds me of the performative nature of Shabbat. Shabbat is not just an ideal that saves us, as Ahad Ha’am once said, rather it is a living spirit that blesses us only when we take action to “remember” it and “observe” it.

If there were angels upon our shoulders last Friday night, I believe they would have blessed our community a thousand fold. The space could not hold the abundance of chairs, people, and spirit that overflowed our chapel. (Thank God the fire department didn’t show up!). The energy, the music, the joy that reverberated in our small, but holy space was astounding. Shabbat was truly alive at Beth Mordecai.

And while Shabbat was alive here at Beth Mordecai, I’m sure that there were many more synagogues, many more Jewish spaces in Middlesex County, in New Jersey, in America, in Israel, and around the world that were similarly filled with the joyous spirit we experienced last Friday night. To take the metaphor of the midrash above, God must be so overjoyed to see Shabbat come alive as God skips from shul to shul. So must we always be glad that there is Jewish joy to experience in more places than just our Jewish Home for the Soul. We should support the learning and the spirit that exudes from all Jewish homes, including joining other Jewish homes for special learning occasions. 

As the angels and God who skip from shul to shul, from home to home on Shabbat must realize, the broad spirit of Israel makes us stronger. We must be grateful for this broad spirit,especially in moments like this Saturday morning when we will be shutting our doors so that we do not harm ourselves trying to experience the Shabbat spirit in the first major snowstorm of the season. Prayers will still be recited, songs will still be sung, just not in our building. And perhaps we might take this snow-opportunity to make Shabbat come alive in our own homes — through food, laughter, conversation, reflection, and perhaps some prayer. After all, when the angels come to your home, don’t you want them to bless you?

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Ari Saks

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