The old joke “Goldberg goes to shul to talk to God; Schwartz goes to shul to talk to Goldberg,” comes to mind as I write this week. On my mind is what I’ve been hearing over and over again on my listening tour of these early weeks with you: that some people are yearning for a really great, song-filled davening (prayer experience)…while others crave a good post-davening schmooze-fest with friends new and old.
“More than the Jews have kept shabbat, shabbat has kept the Jews.” This dictum, which sounds deeply religious, was actually uttered by the Zionist thinker Ahad Ha’Am. Ahad Ha’Am was a secular Jew. But he understood that the folkways of the Jewish people are part of what binds us. Some of us come to Agudas to talk to God…many more come to talk to one another.
It is in this spirit that I hope you’ll consider logging in to zoom tomorrow night. This is not a kabbalat shabbat service…but I hope it will do for us what kabbalat shabbat was invented to do by the early Kabbalists of Safed, who came up with the idea of running out to the fields in song to greet the Sabbath Bride. I hope it will put us in the mood, help shift us out of a week of “doing” to a day in which we relish living without any agenda accept to feel God’s love. We will sing, highlights (but not all of) the kabbalat shabbat service. I will share some words of Torah. We will remember loved ones for whom we are saying kaddish this week, and those in need of healing. And, if we agree to keep our cameras on, we will give one another the chance to see faces that we don’t get to see very often right now. That too is a mitzvah – because even if Goldberg logs in to feel the presence of God, Schwartz will only feel God’s presence by seeing Goldberg’s face up there on the screen. Or, if Schwartz is technologically stymied by this whole zoom thing, by calling in and knowing that Goldberg and so many others are there, too.
The early kabbalists were on to something, and riffed off a theme in the Talmud that we are now lifting up as well: that in order to feel our souls, and to feel them connected to one another, we need to put in a bit of preparatory work. As we hope to make one day a week feel different for ourselves and for the Source of our Being, let’s join forces to get ready together.
I can’t wait to see you then.
Rabbi Abigail Treu