At this past Monday morning’s briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the State’s goal was to keep New Yorkers “…socially distanced, but spiritually connected.” While I prefer using the phrase “physically distanced,” I applaud the idea of “spiritual connection.” That is our goal here at Temple Am Echad as well, to keep our networks of connection strong and to maintain Judaism as a touchstone in our daily lives. Jewish ritual, especially during long periods of staying home, will help us do that.
Ancient rituals are explored at length in the Book of Leviticus, which we begin reading this week with the Torah portion Vayikra. The portion focuses on the various kinds of sacrifices which were offered at the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary. At a time in which our days lack structure and usual activities, ritual can help ground us, help us find meaning and bring some comfort.
During this unsettled time, find Jewish rituals that are meaningful for you and for your family. Say the Shema right before falling asleep, and upon waking. Observe Shabbat by lighting candles and by saying a blessing over wine and Hamotzi. If you are alone on a Friday night, call, FaceTime or Skype with a family member or friend to light Shabbes candles and say the blessings together. Having challah on hand is great, but not essential. Hamotzi can and should be offered whenever any type of bread is eaten at a meal, not just Shabbat! And of course, join Temple Am Echad for Shabbat services!
Below in this blast is a prayer for washing hands, something we should all be engaging in regularly throughout the day. Even this mundane act can become transcendent, bringing God’s comforting presence into our day. And that is what we need, now more than ever.
May ritual bring us closer to God, and may God bring us comfort and strength.