Op-eds

Keeping us together

  • ChiefRabbi
We are living in unprecedented times. The entire world is hunkered down. People aren’t at work, children aren’t at school. Our daily lives have been disrupted in the most profound and unsettling way. There are many people suffering physically and financially, many whose lives and livelihoods are at risk.
by CHIEF RABBI DR WARREN GOLDSTEIN | Mar 26, 2020

This week, our president acted bravely and resolutely to mitigate the situation. And, as a community, we’ve done so too, right from the beginning. To help get a handle on the situation at an early stage, we made the agonising decision to close our schools and shuls. We consulted with the foremost medical and healthcare experts, and issued mitigation measures and guidelines. This week, during Yom Kippur Katan, we prayed and fasted in complete solidarity, imploring Hashem to bring healing to the world.

And now there’s something else we can do, something to mitigate the sense of dislocation we feel, something to relieve the unease. It’s something that can restore some stability to our lives, something we can hold fast to in a world that is so turbulent and so unpredictable. Something to keep our lives together.

Shabbat.

Shabbos has held the Jewish people together throughout history, since G-d gave it to us more than 3 300 years ago. It has been a source of comfort and strength through our greatest challenges and hardships. It has always been there for us. And in the midst of this crisis, Shabbat is there for us again.

The essence of Shabbos is peace. That’s why we say, “Shabbat shalom”. It brings peace into our lives, peace among our family, friends, and community, peace within ourselves, peace with G-d. Shalom (peace) is derived from the word shalem which means to be whole. On Shabbat we become whole. We put away our phones, we set aside our work, we remove from our lives all the distractions, and we connect. We eat together, daven together, sing together, share words of Torah, of insight and inspiration. We talk. We bond. We live – really live.

In these turbulent times, Shabbos can be a real haven of light and strength, of faith in G-d as our loving parent who is with us through everything. On Shabbat, we remember what’s truly important in our lives. In a world turned upside down, it can keep us the right way up.

We read in the Torah how in the time of the great flood, Noah, his family, and the animals were protected by an ark – a haven in a world that was drowning. Our sages say that Shabbos is that ark. A refuge for us to draw strength and renewal from. A place where we can breathe.

Shabbos is our ark in this crisis. It can help us weather the storm. We all know that famous slogan from World War II which boosted British morale in the midst of the blitzkrieg – “Keep calm and carry on”. Again the world is at war, only this time with a virus. Perhaps we can repurpose that slogan for our times, “Keep calm and keep Shabbos.”

As a community, perhaps more than any other community, we are familiar with the joy, peace, and connection of Shabbos. We know the power of “keeping it together” – how Shabbos keeps our lives together.

Now is the time to keep our lives together. This Shabbos, let us all keep Shabbos, with Jews all around the world. Let us enjoy the calmness and respite it brings us, the sense of rootedness in a world that is spinning. Let us draw comfort, strength, and inspiration from Shabbos. Let’s keep it together.

And may this Shabbos truly be a Shabbat shalom.

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