Rabbi Greg's response to Ben Duncan's dvar
Ben, thank you for your dvar torah and for the wise words you have shared with us today. You have chosen to focus on two important ideas – holy time and holy space.
Shabbat is holy time -it is a gift that the Jews have shared with the world and there is no person anywhere who would disagree with the need to take time out once a week. But Shabbat is not just a “day off”, it’s a sacred day. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described it, it is a cathedral in time, as if it was a space in time that you literally enter each week.
Which connects to the holy space that you spoke about – the mishkan, the Tabernacle that the Israelites constructed in the wilderness. As they wandered their 40-year journey in the midbar, the Sinai desert, the Israelites moved and stopped, moved and stopped, guided by a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. And each time they stopped, they would re-build the Tabernacle, piece by piece.
And just as it was for the sacred Tent of Meeting, so it is for the sacred sabbath each week. It only exists if you build it. Each week.
As you said, Progressive Jews understand that the world has changed a great deal since the time of your Torah portion and new times require new understanding. That is particularly clear today, as you have been called to the Torah under unique and unusual circumstances.
It’s not easy to become bar mitzvah on any day, and this day particularly, you have risen above the situation and showed your community what it means to be bar (son) of mitzvah (commandment).
But some things don’t change no matter now many years go by and no matter what is going on in the world. In this case, the need for holy time and holy space endures unchanged.
As people all over the world move further from each other, and distance themselves physically, they have been asked to create separate space, apart from each other. And in order for that not to become isolating, we need to be creative to overcome this social distancing. We need to make our spaces sacred and we need to make time holy.
This can be done through conscious thought and practise, through careful planning and action. Finding a balance between time spent online and time spent quietly reading, walking or sitting. Balancing our need to look after ourselves and our families with reaching out to those who we know are alone or vulnerable at this time.
And taking time to connect, not just with others, but with ourselves and with whatever we name that that is Greater than Ourselves.
Ben, you have a great advantage to many others in the world right now. You have the support and love of your family who have guided you to be the thoughtful and caring bar mitzvah you are. They have taught you about the values that are important to them and to think deeply about what is good and right in this world. And you have chosen with them to study towards this day, your coming of age in Jewish time, here in this shul representing sacred space. And you have done so well. We are proud of you and want to wish you and your family a huge mazal tov.
And to the whole virtual community out there who have connected, we wish you the chance this Shabbat to take time to disconnect and connect. To find small moments of sacred time to make your homes sacred space – mikdash m’at, small sanctuaries of peace, safety and wholeness.