A little over a year ago, I returned to my Jacksonville Jewish community from an amazing P2G Israel Educators mission with new ideas, new friends, a case of Marzipan, a “push gift” for my wife, and a very important barrel of magnetic Hebrew letters. My wife and I, anticipating our daughter’s arrival that March, would later use these letters in an overzealous attempt to chronicle her first year of life. No, this wasn’t a “one second a day” collaboration (http://vimeo.com/69986655), but rather an innocent attempt to have our daughter appear in a weekly photo in the same location, with the same magnetic board, over the course of her first year of life. My wife has returned to work, and for the past 6 months it’s been a Thursday night daddy/daughter ritual of picture time, bath time, and bed time as my wife works a late shift. As you can see, what started out as a simple task has become an adventure.
For me, this is sacred time. Beyond the sentiment of, “they grow up so fast,” I use this weekly snapshot to think about our week as a family: how we’ve grown as parents, baby steps (literally and figuratively) that our daughter has taken. I don’t check my cell phone, I don’t turn on the television. I am able to reflect, to be grateful. I am able to be. This snapshot of our week is when time stands still, when living in the present is the greatest present of all. For me, this is a sanctuary in time.
Our Torah reading this week states the following: “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell amongst them” (Exodus 25:8)
“Where is the dwelling place of God?” asked Menachem Mendl of Kotzk. He answered his own question: “God dwells wherever we let God in.” There are moments throughout our busy week when we can take an extra deep breath, when we can reflect, when we can rest our battered bodies and minds to let God in. These are “Shabbat” moments.
Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.” Shabbat is the greatest sanctuary we have in Judaism– a respite from the troubles of daily life. We can take a snapshot of our week that was, never knowing how next week’s snapshot may develop, never getting too caught up in the uncertainty of tomorrow because we are caught up in the present.
At Seudat Shlishit, the third and final meal of the Shabbat experience, we often sing melodies that call to mind a sadness that Shabbat is leaving. The 23rd Psalm, chanted during funerals and our Yizkor services, is chanted at this point. In some ways, we mourn the loss of the Shabbat that is soon behind us. The verse, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” signifies that no matter what fears we may have about the week to come, God is with us. We later use the spices, candle, and wine during the Havdalah ceremony to signify that no matter what fears we may have about the week to come, Shabbat is with us as well. Shabbat has the potential to travel with us throughout the week. When we find time to not think of time, when we engross ourselves in a moment of rest and reflection, we not only let Shabbat travel with us, but God as well.