This Shabbat, Jews around the world will observe the Shabbat HaGadol (the Great Sabbath) that precedes Passover, by reflecting upon the themes in the Torah Portion Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36; Jeremiah 7:21-28; 9:22-23) which describes how Aaron and his sons had to spend seven days inside the Sanctuary, in order to be initiated into the priesthood.
Traditional rabbinic commentary understood that these seven days when they were supposed to remain in the Sanctuary, without leaving, were days of transition… a time when they were to be transformed into priests, able to serve others with love, compassion and wisdom…
As we reflect upon our own days where we are asked to remain in our homes, without leaving, we are mindful that this is a time of transformation for us all… This time will change us all, in horrific ways, but hopefully also in some good ways, as we learn and try to adapt to this new reality, and the new challenges and demands that come with it. May we each become more loving, compassionate and wise, and may our time in isolation bring healing, peace and blessing. May we be especially mindful of those unable to isolate, and may we send extra prayerful energy toward them, that they be protected during this difficult time.
This coming week, Jews around the world will celebrate Passover in new ways, either alone or through virtual seders, and many will reflect upon this new pandemic, and dedicate their seders to healing and renewal, praying for our planet’s liberation from the scourge of this virus. For some great Passover resources during this time, please check out: https://www.jta.org/2020/03/31/culture/having-a-solo-passover-seder-there-are-plenty-of-guides-for-you and https://www.reconstructingjudaism.org/passover-2020.
Meanwhile, our Christian brothers and sisters are preparing for Easter, and experiencing this time of social distancing within the larger context of Lent (for a special message from the Pope for Holy Week: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-04/pope-francis-holy-week-2020-message-coronavirus.html). In a few weeks, our Muslim brothers and sisters will be observing the month of Ramadan, through fasting and prayer. And all of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, are learning to fast from our comfortable routines, from the assumptions and resources that generally support us.
May this time yield unexpected blessing and healing… new insight, wisdom and compassion. May the promise of redemption embedded in our respective traditions usher in a time of healing and hope, soon and speedily, and let us say Amen.