the generative kernel
For the past few months my family has had a new awesome housemate who happens to not be Jewish. This was her first time experiencing the epic journey that is the the Days of Awe. There was truly no way to prepare her for the marathon of holidays.
This past Tuesday morning, as we were making breakfast in the kitchen, I told her the holidays were officially over (despite the Sukkah still being up). She looked at me with concern and asked, "Does that mean we don't get to celebrate Shabbat?"
"Oh no!" I assured her. "We get to celebrate Shabbat every week. In fact, in the upcoming month of Cheshvan, Shabbat will be the only holiday."
Living with her has helped me appreciate that for a person who is not Jewish the idea of having a holiday every week is rather absurd. And also quickly becomes essential.
To quote one of my teachers, Rabbi Nehemia Polen, "Shabbos is the generative kernel at the center of the Jewish spiritual universe."
And at the center of this week's Torah portion.
This is the week when everything is possible. The week we begin the Torah again, from the beginning, with parashat Bereishit. The week that includes both the six days of creation and the instruction to cease from creation on the seventh day.
Rabbi Polen's new book is entitled Stop Look Listen: Celebrating Shabbos Through a Spiritual Lens. In it he explains that Shabbat is an uninterrupted, immersive, full-day spiritual practice that leads us to full presence.
Shabbos enables us to feel hibbat hakodesh – the sweet, precious embrace of the sacred. A textured landscape of indescribable beauty, Shabbos is the greatest, most noble gift we can give to the world, to our communities, to ourselves, and to God" (xxxvii).
As we begin this new year acharei hahagim, on the other side of the holidays, we find ourselves rediscovering the holiday that has been there all along. We enter Shabbat Bereishit where we receive Shabbat as our spiritual inheritance. This Shabbat plants the seed for the year ahead. To quote, Rabbi Adina Allen, it is the kernel of the yet-to-come.
May our exploration and practice of Shabbat in 5783 lead us each into a textured landscape of indescribable beauty and may we feel (even in moments) the precious embrace of the sacred.
Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach,
Rabbi Ari Lev
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