Shabbat Comes to the War

All of my friends are crying. That’s how it feels. Some are crying on the outside. Some are crying on the inside. So we prepare for Shabbat.

Since my first Shabbat at Camp Ramah – praying together in joyous song – I’ve cried every Friday night. For years I knew exactly where those tears would come. The melody would swell, all of us singing together in Hebrew: “Ha-El hakadosh sh’ayin ca’mohu… The holy G-d, there in none like You who gives rest to Your people on Your holy Sabbath day…”

This is my understanding of crying for joy: how beautiful is Shabbat, how beautiful is the holiness of G-d’s rest descending upon us. How beautiful is the holiness of G-d’s presence enveloping us in sacredness, so much like peace. My tears were simple, quiet, subtle.

After my wife Ami z”l died, this crying became a random thing – and more obvious – jumping around Kabbalat Shabbat in unpredictable fashion, but generally moving closer and closer to the beginning of the service. This was frightening, not knowing when I might cry in public or whether I’d need to walk out of the sanctuary. I began sitting further back in shul. Sometimes my tears arrived in L’cha Dodi, but usually in the mishaberah for healing added to the Friday night service in the Reform Movement. After services, I’d joke with my hazzan. “You got me again.” She’d remind me – with a smile – that getting me to cry on Friday night was like shooting fish in a barrel.

In Israel, my Kabbalat Shabbat tears finally settled in at the very beginning of t’fillah. The song-poem Yedid Nefesh, beloved of the soul. “Maheir ahuv… Hurry, beloved, for the appointed time has come…” So happy for Shabbat in Israel. So sad to be alone.

Shabbat has come, once again, to the war. This grieving, this fear for our people, this pride in our soldiers, this burying the dead, these missiles, these sirens, will not claim it. We will sing like our fathers and mothers did for generations. We will be vessels of love and light. And we will cry, either on the inside or the outside.

This is what we know in our bones: how beautiful is the Sabbath, how beautiful is the holiness of G-d’s day descending upon us. How terrible is this moment for those defending our borders. How quiet it is for families with empty seats at their tables. How silent is the ground when we bury our dead. How much prayer will rise to heaven as the sun sets.

How beautiful is the Sabbath, the holiness of G-d’s presence enveloping us in something so much like yearning, so much like hope and sorrow, so much like faith in G-d’s love.

Maheir ahuv… Hurry, beloved, for the appointed time has come…”

Hurry, hurry.

About the Author
Alden Solovy is a liturgist, poet, and educator. His teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem to Limmud UK and synagogues throughout North America. He's the author of “This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day” and has written more than 750 pieces of new liturgy. His new book, "This Joyous Soul: A New Voice for Ancient Yearnings," was published in 2019. He made aliyah in 2012. Read his work at
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