Dear WJC Family,
This Shabbat, the Shabbat immediately preceding Purim, is known as Shabbat Zachor. Zachor is the second of the four special maftir Torah portions that we read during the lead-up to Passover. As Purim approaches we are commanded to “Zachor et Amalek, Remember what Amalek did to you when you left Egypt.” Amalek—who attacked the flanks of the Israelite people as we left Egypt, targeting the weakest non-fighters—has come to represent all those who seek the destruction of the Jewish people. Before we celebrate Haman’s defeat at the hands of Esther and Mordechai, we remember how close the Persian Jewish community came to disaster. With the frightening resurgence of antisemitism and intolerance of so many kinds in this country and around the world, Shabbat Zachor does seem to have a certain salience worth noting. But Shabbat Zachor is notable this year for many more reasons.
Shabbat Zachor last year, March 7, 2020, was momentous at WJC. It was the first Shabbat that then soon-to-be-ordained Rabbi Cornelia Dalton spent with the congregation she now calls home. I remember being very impressed with the way she had a whole crowd around her at Kiddish that morning and handled the inevitable peppering with questions. Unfortunately, it is a skill she has not been able to use as a rabbi of WJC, because that was the last Shabbat Kiddish we had. It was, in fact, the last Shabbat morning service without masks, pre-registration, and assigned seating. I have to say that despite the difficult circumstances under which Rabbi Dalton has joined our WJC family, she has already made herself an integral part of the fabric of our congregation. We are so glad she is here and wish her a happy anniversary. We look forward to sharing Kiddish again as soon as we can.
On this Shabbat Zachor, it is easy to get pulled into a morose remembrance of the Shabbat that was and we miss so much; just as when we remember Amalek, it is easy to dragged into a review of all the people who have hated and persecuted Jews over the millennia. However, this would be missing the point of Shabbat Zachor. After all, there is no Zachor without Purim, no warily remembering the enemies of the Jewish people without the gritty ability of the Jewish people to survive. The trash heap of history is littered with antisemites and on the bottom of that pile, underneath all the other refuse, is Pharaoh’s Egyptians and Amalek. We remember Amalek, we guard against the coming of the next wave, but we also remember that no matter how many waves there are and how awful they may be, Purim comes, we survive, thrive, and continue our shared mission of Tikkun Olam and bringing holiness into the world.
So too with our review of the last year—yes, we all long to get back to Shabbat as we knew it last March 7, with bountiful kiddish, warm camaraderie, spiritual uplift, and the sound of children running in the building. But over the course of this year we have also learned just how resilient we are—we have found new, imperfect yet meaningful ways to gather, to comfort each other, to learn and grow, and to connect. We have rallied to the cause of Jewish life here on the sound shore despite the virtual nature of so many experiences. We have struggled in the present yet continually looked to the future, as we always have.
This year has been challenging in many awful ways that will take years of recovery to heal, and yet we have also been reminded of our unique strengths as individuals and as a community. It is a journey that I would rather we didn’t have to take, but I am grateful to be taking it with my WJC family. I hope that you have found a way to connect over the last year, and if not, I hope you will join me in a commitment to remedy that this year. If you have yet to find a satisfying way to be part of the WJC family in this time of pandemic, I hope you will reach out to me or any of our clergy or staff and that we will be able to rectify that through any of our numerous services, programs and classes, or maybe just with a Zoom call or a walk outside once it gets warmer. And hopefully, as vaccines become more available and guidance on Covid becomes clearer, the numbers will continue to abate and we will be schmoozing at Kiddish once again—may that Shabbat come speedily in our days.
In the meantime, we will make the most of this Shabbat Zachor, with a full house (30 people) in shul and many more joining us through our live stream. It should be a frailich (joyous) Saturday morning as Howard Zweig celebrates his “second bar mitzvah,” and his whole family gets in on the action of leading and chanting at the service. Friday night services will be led by Cantor Goldberg and Rabbi Dalton on the live stream starting at 5:15pm and those who would like to join us on Zoom for a little hachanat l’Shabbat hang out and schmooze you can see the link for that below as well. Havdalah this week will be at 6:30pm on Saturday.
See you in shul or online,