Steady as She Goes

As I started to map out this week’s service, I was thinking what do folks need this week?

It’s been quite a ride between the lockdown, Black Lives Matter/Juneteenth, the reopening, the continuing partial shutdown…. couple all of that with the particulars of our lives, and I think most of us are exhausted. Personally, I really want some peace and quiet; to sit INSIDE at my favorite coffee house with an iced decaf coffee.

What I am craving is calm, constant, and familiar. Tonight wasn’t a night to innovate; it was a night to sink into the reassuring mundane.

When things are swirling around us, how do we quiet the noise?

Our coming together for services provides quiets the noise for me. I see familiar faces, hear familiar melodies; I carve out time to rest and rejuvenate.

Our liturgy speaks of constancy…Ma’ariv aravimm’shaneh itim (“changes the times”), goleil or mipnei choshech v’choshech mipnei or (“rolling light away from darkness and darkness in front of light”), u’maavir yom umeivi lailah (“causing day to pass and bringing on the night.”). Every day we experience constancy as we know the sun will rise and the sun will set.

This week’s Torah reading is a double portion – Mattot/Masei. The second portion, Masei, begins by recounting with the endless wandering of the Israelites before they conquered Canaan and entered the land. Almost 50 stops along the journey.

What can we learn from this exhaustive retelling, here and there, up and down, left and right…? Rashi comments that these journeys are recorded to make the Omnipresent’s benevolence known, that He was with them on the journey. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments “We are all on a journey. And we must all rest from time to time. That dialectic between setting out and encamping, walking and standing still, is part of the rhythm of Jewish life. “. Reb Jamie comments that this detail is there to remind us that our landscapes are always changing. That the ups and downs are nothing new. If we break down our lives into the specific detail of every year – I was born in LA, moved to SF at 6, Menlo Park at 8, Piedmont at 12, Palo Alto at 14, Portland at 17, Jerusalem at 21, Oakland, Menlo Park, Fremont, Pleasanton and now San Ramon, it feels like a lot. But when we take the long view, we see that as Rashi says, God, the Omnipresent, is always with us; that as Rabbi Sacks said, we are all on a journey; and I said, change is constant.

So as we ride out this part of our journey, with the ups and the downs, the shutdowns and the unexpected, let’s remember that all journeys are filled with twists and turns; that as the sun is setting tonight, it will rise tomorrow; that the familiar faces of our caring community are here with you tonight; and that the Omnipresent is with us always. Here’s to the mundane that quiets the noise, and here’s to to siting INSIDE, at our favorite coffee houses, with an iced decaf coffee.

Shabbat shalom.