By Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs –
There is nothing that I have seen anywhere that compares to Shabbat morning in Jerusalem. There are fewer cars on the road on Shabbat than other mornings and an aura of holiness envelops the city. Vickie and I walk leisurely to synagogue and wish everyone we see a “Shabbat Shalom!” Some return our greeting and others do not. We pass by residents of the city and others from other parts of Israel and the world. There are religious and secular. And one can always know the visitors who gaze in awe at the beauty of the city confirming the rabbinic teaching that the Almighty gave ten measures of beauty to the world of which nine were allotted to Jerusalem. (Babylonian Talmud) The secular are out walking, jogging, and biking and there are the religious of all types in their Shabbat finery on their way to or from worship.
In the Diaspora we all know too well what divides Israel’s Jews, but we rarely dwell on what they have in common and what makes them a people in their own land. Our Shabbat mornings brings our shared beings and for us reaffirms our reason for being in Israel: to join the struggle for our rights as Progressive Jews in our own country. It is this task that seems so hard to grapple with every day of the week, but on a glorious Shabbat morning walk that difficulty tends to fade as we share our Shabbat with others in this way. What divides us is so less urgent than what brings us together. Clal Yisroel, our oneness, pushes aside our weekday concerns.
We are all charged by the Almighty in Genesis to “Be a blessing . Walk in God’s ways and strive to be worthy of them!” And to “keep the way of the Almighty” and teach our children to practice “Tzedakah v’mishpat –righteousness and justice.” We are all obligated by the covenant G-d made with Abraham to use our talents in every way to fulfill the prophetic vision of a day when, “everyone shall sit under their vines and fig trees with none to make them afraid.” (Micah 4:4)
In his best-selling book, “The Gifts of the Jews,” Irish Catholic author, Thomas Cahill, noted that among our greatest gifts to humanity is the idea of Shabbat. It is a day to refresh our souls, and to remember our covenential obligations. Shabbat is also the day that lights our way for the rest of the week. Progressive Jews can do no less than use the transforming powers of Shabbat in Jerusalem to attempt to connect Jews around the world to one another and to make them one with this blessed land.
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. He lives in West Hartford.
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