Here’s a video message for the CBI community from Rabbi Rachel. If you prefer to read it rather than viewing it, the text is enclosed below.
(And if you can’t see the embedded video you can go directly to it: In the Wilderness.)
As Shabbat approaches, we’re finishing week eight of shelter-in-place and social distancing.
Many of you have described to me a sense of being unmoored in time. Normal life stopped in March. Kids don’t go to school anymore. One day blurs into the next. Has it been two weeks since this started, or two years? It feels like both.
I keep thinking about the Torah story we’re reading right now — about our spiritual ancestors wandering in the wilderness. They might have thought when they left Egypt that their journey would be quick. It wasn’t.
Even in my worst moments I know this pandemic won’t last 40 years! But it might feel that way sometimes. And a journey always seems longer when we don’t know how long it will take.
This year I empathize with our ancestors in a way I never did before. Everything about this is hard. Maybe especially wondering whether these hardships are worth it, and not knowing how long this will last.
In our Torah story, our ancestors displayed almost every emotion there is. Sometimes they railed against God and against their leaders. Sometimes they were accepting. Sometimes they were grateful for manna. Sometimes they complained because they didn’t have meat. We too may be emotionally all over the map. That’s normal.
And I’ll bet our ancestors felt unmoored in time, just like we do. The only marker of time they had was the double portion of manna that fell on Friday, enough to sustain them on Shabbat.
Here’s how I’m trying to tether myself in time. I try to bookend each day with a moment of mindfulness — to wake with modah ani, the morning prayer for gratitude, and go to sleep with the bedtime shema. Counting the Omer helps, when I remember to do it.
Baking challah on Fridays helps. Friday morning meditation, now in the CBI zoom room instead of the CBI sanctuary, helps. Shabbat services, ditto. I try to take Shabbat as a day away from the news — to give my soul time to heal, and to make Shabbat different from other days.
I try to notice as spring green return to the trees, as the moon waxes and wanes. These remind me that the cycles of the natural world continue.
And I’m trying to stop speculating about how long the journey will be. We can’t know. But like our ancestors, we’re not alone. Even if we can’t be together “in person,” we can be together on Zoom or Facetime or over the phone. We can be together in spirit.
Tonight as the sun goes down, I’ll kindle two little lights. As sundown sweeps across the globe, I imagine a wave of tiny lights appearing in response. In my home and your home. All around the world. Whether or not we have candles, we can kindle that light in hearts.
May that light shine brightly and bring us comfort for the journey ahead — however long the journey may be. Shabbat shalom.