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2020 May Shabbat Sermon 

05/13/2020 06:36:39 PM


Rabbi Adir Glick: Shabbat Sermon May 2020

One of the strangest occurrences that happened when this whole situation with the virus began was – the day the stay-at-home order was announced, my wrist watch stopped and ran out of battery. Of course… No way to get to the store.

But how apt.

Time stopped.

For the past month and a half, we have been living in an alternate reality.

Nobody seems to know what day it is.

Everyday is Shabbat.

An outing is going to the supermarket where you see other human beings through panes of plexiglass.

I am reminded of the passage in Deuteronomy where Moses tells the people as they prepare to finally enter the Promised Land that the sandals on their feet did not wear out nor did the clothes on their backs.

For 40 years they were in a different reality – now – higiah zman, it was time to re-enter.

I have always thought of that moment.

You have been complaining for 40 years, the sand is too hot, the food is the same day after day, God is ever watching – you can’t do anything.

Yet then you look ahead, back to normal life, you fear – okay - what is it going to be like? Back to the old routine? The rhythms of daily life.

Le’havdil – This is a Little Different

I did not grow up going to these long Jewish summer camps.

But on my way to the Rabbinate, I did work at a few.

You spend 2 ½ months in one community, barely leaving once a week, day in, day out, the same people, the same food, at times, waiting for privacy, regular life, but then it is there – you see people in a city don’t smile and greet you. You were living immersed in community, not a vast world of strangers, or semi strangers. Religious life, punctuated seamlessly. There was a transition time.

Other people experience this, perhaps soldiers, people who live on retreats, or who are lost in faraway places.

I have this image in my mind of Tom Hanks talking to a coconut.

There is that story in the Talmud of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Eliezer who hide away in a cave for 12 years after the Romans pursue them.

In the cave, they strip their clothes off so they do not wear out and bury themselves in sand to learn Torah because you are not supposed to learn Torah while naked.

They ate carobs.

They were disconnected from their physical selves.

Their bodies buried, their heads sticking out, as they studied and daavened.

When they came out, finally, at the guidance of a heavenly voice, it was unbearable, they saw regular life, mundane life. People going about their lives. Out of their eyes, lasers shut out and they blasted everybody and everything in sight. Until God said this is My creation, go back to your cave.

I was talking to my wife Rachel last week, and we said we can’t wait until it is over. We also do not want it to be over in another strange way.

Our closeness as a family.

Being together in quarantine – we are lucky not to have to go out to work.

The Solidarity

Overall – overall – we are having ups and downs, but bringing out positive characteristics in many people.

Now, that early phase of unworldliness appears to be shifting into a new in between time.

I have been wondering is my watch going to start working again soon?

Will we lose and forget all of it?

I am struck that in our parashah this week by the second half – a lengthy passage that we read during the chagim, the holidays, about the moadim, the special occasions, the special times of our Jewish calendar enumerated in great details.

Pesach, The offering of the Bikkurim, The Day of the Blast, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, the festival of Booths, the last Day of no work.

It is not the only list of our holidays in the Torah.


You realize, the Israelites who left the desert were not meant to completely leave the desert.

A new life was already born within them.

Of course when the dust settled in the Promised Land, they reverted to some pretty barbaric ways for a while, a few hundred years, but then eventually the seeds planted began to bear fruit.

They started to see what they were supposed to do.

Now – It Made Sense

There was a choice.

A difficult choice, to embrace a higher way of life.

But it was there.

And the desert was still in them.

In all of the holidays they had been handed by Moses hundreds of years before - Shabbat weekly, rosh chodesh - the first mitzvah God gave the freed slaves, the new month.

A way to live differently, in the zone. Time stopped.

It is no accident that every time in the tumultuous but wondrous years of biblical history that the people found their way back to their best selves and righteousness, they began to observe the holidays again. They saw, we do have a way. It is set before us.

Barukh Hashem.

The moadim, the holidays were not God created. They were commanded by God, they were God’s, but up to man to implement, to declare, before there were calendars. Will you look up at the moon and remember, it is time to see the sliver and announce the new month, and the holiday coming, and gather your community and family, and all the rest.

It doesn’t mean we have to live fully on the moon.

We Have to Bring Both Worlds Into Our Lives

Or bring some of the desert and the quarantine into what we used to call normal.

The Kohen of ancient times, as the beginning of the parashah says, he had to watch out not to become impure. He had to watch how he lived, to be conscious, eyes open, not to go through life with blinders.

There were also exceptions to the rules. He had to avoid the impurity of death, but for his relatives he could become impure.

As the She Mi Shmuel the Hassdic master said, he had the holiness of family to think about, to consider.

We too need to consider and remember above all the holiness of family.

The holiness of togetherness, whatever that family looks like.

Whether it is real family, or friends, or the cats in our apartment.

When Shimon Bar Yochai and his son, who zapped the world with their eyes went back to the cave, they spent an additional year, until finally Elijah came and permitted them to leave.

Then they were filled with a great compassion.

They saw a man carrying two bundles of myrtle before Shabbat and asked him what they were for?

He said one is for shamor and one for zakhor, the reason we have two candles on Shabbat.

One bundle for the positive commandments, to light candles, do kiddush, eat challah, delight in Shabbat. One for the negative commandments, not to work, all of the observances to help us disconnect and leave creation untouched, resting.

Shimon Bar Yochai and his son were overjoyed, teary eyed.

The Beauty of Regular Mundane Life

And the small gestures that people - that we all, make.

To try to sanctify, to keep precious, to love, not to hurt, to draw close, to protect, to revere, to forgive.

Like deciding to have an adult bat mitzvah.

Like clapping for health workers…

Like making masks.

The two rabbis went on to perform many miracles and to dedicate their lives to helping the needy.

When our watches start working again – our hope – our prayer – is that whether we go out and run back to shopping, to eating out, to all of the things we have missed, or whether when we go out, and our eyes burn, and everything appears wrong, not following the rules we expect - after all the initial reactions have played themselves out, we will come to the profound realization that the desert has become part of who we are....

There is so much that is good and beautiful in this world.

And in each other.

We are the guardians of that goodness and beauty.

The beauty and goodness is in us.

And we are in the beauty and goodness.

If we can hold on to that truth - that right perspective, then who knows, anything is possible?

Shabbat shalom.

Wed, May 18 2022 17 Iyyar 5782