Shabbat Shalom ~ Bemidbar

Dear WJC Family,

It is celebration season—from galas to graduations, Memorial Day to Yom Yerushalyim (as I write today)—and there is a lot to celebrate. Despite the limited spaces in which we now find ourselves living, we have not given up on our celebrations. It doesn’t just feel like we want to have them; it feels like we need to have them. Organizations and people are stepping up and creating great ones. Just in the past week, I have had the pleasure and privilege of attending a number of virtual celebrations involving our community, all of which were pretty incredible, and they created a lasting record:

The above list doesn’t include dozens of college and graduate school graduations where are folks earned degrees (I see the posts on Facebook!), including our own Cantor Ethan Goldberg who was awarded a Master’s degree from JTS. Mazal tov to you all!

Our need to celebrate is a truth that Judaism has known for 3000+ years. We are given a holiday every seven days: Shabbat. When I stop and think about it, it seems a bit meshuga. Do we really have something to celebrate every day? Are we not allowed to have a bad week? Of course, we will have bad weeks, not to mention bad periods of history that make the current situation, difficult though it is, look not so bad. These periods have often lasted years or decades! Creating sustenance of celebration is the underlying power of Shabbat.

We celebrate Shabbat every week no matter what is going on in the world or in our lives, not to ignore the reality of difficult times but to remind us that even during difficult times we have a lot to be grateful for. If we can’t think of anything else, we at least acknowledge the beautiful world God created for us and the freedoms we enjoy. Like so many Jewish institutions, Shabbat exists to help us shift our focus from the negative and instead focus on the beautiful and sacred in the world. That is why Shabbat is not just a holy day; we consider it our most holy day (Yom Kippur is considered a Shabbat whenever it falls). We don’t wait around for something good to celebrate, we call out that which is good every day and every week by celebrating the good that is always with us, a beautiful world, friends and family, delicious food, and the light of candles and love.

Thank you to all the organizations and people giving us things to celebrate at this challenging time—mazal tov again! And let’s remember that God did us the same favor—a gift to enjoy every week, no matter what, the holy Shabbat. I hope you will join us for Ta’am Shabbat this evening at 6:00pm and for havdalah at 9:15pm Saturday. Tonight’s service will include a Dvar Torah by Annika Lee, who became a bat mitzvah at a ceremony earlier this week (another great celebration I got to ‘attend’!) and some special songs for Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Unification Day) which is today.

Remember—next week is our annual Shavuot “Learn-in,” our Tikkun Leyl Shavuot, a day early on Wednesday evening from 8:00-11:30pm with a different session every half hour. Come for all or come for part! Our “Ta’am Yom Tov” service, including the Yizkor Memorial Prayers, a highlight from the Book of Ruth and parts of the Hallel service will convene at the beginning of Shavuot on Thursday evening. You can click on the video link below for some Torah thoughts on this week’s Torah portion, Bemidbar.

See you online,

P.S. Look for the notices about great Hesed work to be done: the local Food Bank is desperate for donations, and we are launching a WJC Penpals program to connect with our folks who are waiting out this pandemic alone and let them know them that we are thinking of them. Please help out with both!

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