August has arrived –blackberries, blueberries and figs are abundant right now; preserving and jam-making is one of August’s tasks for many of us. We want to preserve the abundance of the moment, uncertain of our own supply chain, in light of the Covid pandemic which is still informing our decisions about how and where we meet. Sadly, physical distancing requirements whilst meeting indoors still precludes our gathering together for Shabbat services. However, we have had most enthusiastic response from you about wanting to gather together this week at Gyro Park – we are all missing that elemental Jewish ingredient – face-to-face contact!
One of the most mysterious and moving verses in Torah is when Moses finally catches a glimpse (albeit, an exceedingly peripheral glimpse) of God. Moses asks God “Show me your glory.” God cannot be seen by any human being, but God tells Moshe, “Stand in the cleft of the rock” and “you will see My back, but My face must not be seen” (Exodus 33: 17-23).
Many of us can sympathize with that depth of longing Moses had to see God. Yet, all our traditional sources caution us against trying to “see” God –and we know that won’t happen. We are taught however, that it is though acts of loving-kindness, gemilut chasidim, that we can experience God-ness in our lives. We trust that we can become closer to God’s Presence through simple acts of service.
In our Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 14a, we read: “Follow Adonai your God . . .” (Deuteronomy 13:5). What does this mean? Is it possible for a mortal to follow God’s Presence? The verse means to teach us that we should follow the attributes of the Holy One, praised be God. As God clothed the naked, for it is written, “And God Eternal made outfits of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21), so you shall clothe the naked. The Holy One, blessed be God, visited the sick, for it is written (after the description of Abraham’s circumcision), “The Eternal appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre” (Genesis 18:1), so you should visit the sick. The Holy One, blessed be God, comforted those who mourned . . . and so should you comfort the mourners. The Holy One, blessed be God, buried the dead . . . and so should you bury the dead”
We find God on many pathways, but one path we can readily walk upon is that of service to others. One of the pathways of kindness we have at hand these days is our wearing masks, to protect ourselves and others. Wearing such a face covering hides our face from others, and we miss seeing the wholeness of their face, but the larger mitzvah of protecting the overall health of our community is so important. Sometimes we can only see the back-view, we only have a glimpse of spiritual One-ness. Avodah can also be a spiritual gateway – this one word holds multiple meanings – service and prayer – service to other and prayer within. Avodah is a spiritual window, and gemilut chasidim, a doorway. Let us strive to become both window and doorway as we continue to build our Kolot Mayim home.
Looking forward to seeing glimpses of many of you, very soon.