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Rabbi's Shabbat Message

This Shabbat is Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of remembering. In particular, remembering a moment of vulnerability:

Remember what the Amalekites did to you on your journey, when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When YHVH your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you, in the land God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deuteronomy, 25:17-19)

Amalek is the nation that took advantage of us at a moment of weakness as we were crossing through the desert, attacking the stragglers at the very back of the pack. It pulls us away from our journey and causes us to veer off the road as we’re making our way out of Egypt toward full liberation. 

It’s interesting that according to Jewish tradition, there’s an extra level of obligation to hear this passage of Torah read on this Shabbat - so what is it that we need to hear and internalize from Parshat Zachor this year in particular? 

One of the reflections I shared at our board meeting last night comes from Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. He points out that: “The numerical value (gematria) of the Hebrew letters that spell Amalek (240) is equivalent to that of the letters that spell safek, “doubt.”” Amalek represents the insidious quality of doubt.

Some amount of doubt in our lives is healthy, and good - it’s what allows us to change our minds when presented with new information rather than cling forever to old beliefs that are no longer true. But too much doubt is like being caught inside a wind tunnel, constantly spinning around and around. “What if things never get better? What if this is all there is?” That voice of cynicism that tells us what we’re doing is pointless can latch on to the most vulnerable parts of our psyche and prevent us from being able to grab hold of the touchstones and truths that ground us and keep us moving forward

In the Buddhist tradition, “doubt” is one of the so-called “five hindrances” (along with craving, aversion, sloth, and restlessness) that gets in the way of mindfulness in our daily lives. Each of these hindrances has an antidote - and the antidote to doubt (unsurprisingly, perhaps) is faith. Remembering why you’re here, why you made a certain commitment. Remembering what got you started down a particular path in the first place, even if now you’re questioning its efficacy

As we’re entering Shabbat, especially if doubt’s been sneaking up on you from behind - take a little time to reflect back on what got you to this moment in the first place, a moment of faith or clarity or connecting with a deep inner truth. See if you can hold onto that memory in your mind this Shabbat Zachor. 

Tomorrow morning, Marc Gary will be leading us in some learning about Parshat Zachor and memory during the Torah service - a real treat! And tonight, we’re celebrating Scout Shabbat in conjunction with the National Jewish Committee on Scouting - a few weeks late, but better late than never! We’ll be joined by many of our Or Hadash Scouts who will be leading some of the blessings and singing Purim songs at the end of services tonight. Thanks to Adam Throne, our resident Scoutmaster, for organizing. 

And to get into the Purim spirit… here’s an upbeat Purim tune we’ll be starting off with tonight, called Utzu Eitzah. The words come from Isaiah 8:10: "Go ahead, scheme your schemes - they'll be overturned. Say whatever you want - it won't come to pass. For God is with us." It's a defiant cry in the face of doubt, saying, "You don't get the last word!" Ki imanu El - for we are not alone. 

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Lauren

Thu, February 25 2021 13 Adar 5781