Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 10

May 7, 2020

Dear Holy Friends,

I pray that this correspondence finds you and your loved ones in good health through these challenging times. Please feel free to contact me at anytime if I can be of support. That is why, we together, are a holy community.

While we have all felt constricted physically, at the same time these limitations have offered us the opportunity for new growth. Last week, I shared with you a poem of thanksgiving from a former adult student of mine, regarding a prayer of gratitude for the “blessings of Zoom!” I actually thought it was powerful, sensitive and profound.

When I first met Carl, he and I studied the Talmud on a weekly basis. He was enthralled by the discussions and became enamored with Jewish thought, learning and creativity. He became a hospital administrator and CEO and now is working for a Jewish organization in Houston. His poem, is a testament to his own unique impressions of the world.

This past week, I received yet another religiously inspired text from a colleague who suggested that we should be more spiritually aware as we go through our daily routine.

Like you, for the last number of weeks, I have been flipping on a mask when I have had to run to the grocery store or engage in “out of the house” activities. My colleague suggested that when we place on a mask, we should feel obligated to recite the following creative blessing:

ברוך אתה ה אלוקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציוונו על שמירת הגוף

Praised be you God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us through your commandments and has obligated us to preserve our physical bodies.

I will tell you folks. I literally never thought of sanctifying this activity!

It is true that our tradition teaches that the preservation of a single soul is tantamount to rescuing the universe. As is recorded in Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5 :

Therefore, but a single person was created in the world, to teach that if any man has caused a single life to perish from Israel, he is deemed by Scripture as if he had caused a whole world to perish; and anyone who saves a single soul from Israel, he is deemed by Scripture as if he had saved a whole world.

We also are aware that the injunction to preserve life is more important than any Torah obligation (3 exceptions, but for another time).

In this week’s Torah portion of Emor, the world of the priests is filled with restrictions which include where they go, who they are with, how they offer sacrifices, etc. After we read of the restrictions, we then read of freedoms of our time and freedoms of our national calendar which was not something that our ancestors in Egypt could access.

The point is only that through restrictions, we can still find holiness and eventual liberations and freedoms. While we are constricted presently, this blessing reminds us that we can always ponder new opportunities to sanctify our life, even in the most mundane actions.

Yes, it is easy to have a religious mindset in the synagogue. Yes, it is easy to have a religious mindset on Shabbat or Yuntif.

This blessing challenges us all to have that same sense of awareness, holiness and concern for others, even through our most simple of actions. So, the next time I see you in the store, will you recite the blessing with me? See you this Shabbat on Zoom!

Blessings always, Rabbi Eric L. Wasser

Tel: 201-562-5277

Please join us this Friday night at 7:00pm for our Kabbalat Shabbat service!

Please make sure to check out our online schedule of services posted here. All the zoom information is provided and hope to “see” you soon.