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I’m sure you’ve heard the message in one form or another: just because you’re vaccinated does not necessarily make it safe to return to life as we knew it in 2019. As Jews, this is familiar territory. From laws of kashrut to ritual hand washing to visits to the mikveh, Jewish ritual practice brings an awareness of our physical selves, the world that surrounds us, and the connection between the two.
On a family trip a few years ago, things were not going as planned, and I let emotions get the best of me. Parshat Shemini offers the reminder that the best way to manage stressful situations is to know ourselves, check in with our own emotions, and if possible, find a way to channel those emotions in more productive and less destructive ways.
In my rabbinical school pastoral counseling class, we had many conversations about what is referred to as the “feedback sandwich.” But this isn’t just a way of sharing bad news or adding variety to a narrative. It’s also a reminder that individual actions don’t have to define us; rather, we are the sum of everything we do.
Our Torah gives us, on the one hand, guidelines for holding moments of joy and, on the other hand, guidelines for holding each other in sorrow. As we pass the anniversary of when COVID-19 changed all our lives, this week's Torah portion about community wholeness is a stark reminder that we are still holding broken pieces, and there’s much work left to be done to make ourselves whole again.
Has the word “community” changed for you over the past year the way it’s changed for me? But even in a global pandemic, there’s no denying that part of being Jewish is being in community. It’s the reason you need a minyan to say Kaddish, or why we hold sheva brachot for a wedding. We may have redefined togetherness, but we will never stop holding each other up, even if it’s from a distance.
The second set of tablets Moses delivers from God to the Israelites (the ones he doesn't smash) are different in a very specific way. This time, Moses carves the stones, and God inscribes the laws. This time, they're a collaboration.
You may know this about me, but I am a creature of habit. In particular, my favorite habit is a routine we started when we had children; it's the nightly ritual of singing the Shema together at bedtime. This routine, done day after day, provides me with a way to verbalize my connection to my children and our faith.