In our parsha, Vayetzei, Jacob sets out from Beer Sheva to Haran. As the sun goes down, he pauses his travels for the night. He lays his head against a stone and has a life-changing dream. He sees a ladder set on the ground and extending to the sky. Angels, Divine messengers, are going up and down the ladder in constant motion while God is planted, steady beside Jacob and the celestial entourage. I am struck by God’s stillness and Jacob’s rest amidst all the motion and commotion of his life.
As we come to the end of a long week of short days, I want to share reflections on Jewish stillness and motion that I spoke from the bimah a few weeks ago as we celebrated Noa Friedman becoming Bat Mitzvah and Julia Rogers’ conversion to Judaism.
“We, the Jewish people, are movers and shakers!
We don’t give up easily.
With grit and determination,
we refuse to give up on the world of our dreams.
Even as we look at the world as it is and it seems so far from how we would wish it to be.
We have entered the month of Kislev – the month of the celebration of the miracles of Hanukkah. We are instructed to publicize the miracles of Hanukkah far and wide.
This is hard work – it is hard work standing up for ourselves as Jews, when the forces of antisemitism are loud and deeply entrenched in our world, when hatred wears down our spirits, and trauma lingers in our bodies, generation to generation.
It is hard work being different.
It is hard work holding on to our differences and being proud of who we are, as we strive to build a different world – one where Jews and all people are seen as beautiful, beloved and worthy of dignity, worthy of life.
Each night of Hanukkah, after we light the candles, our ancient Rabbis instruct us to read the prayer “Hanerot Halalu.”
It states in part, “These candles are sacred. We don’t have permission to use them as a light source, but should only look upon them.”
When the lights are aglow, we have permission to stop moving,
to stop doing.
We are, in fact, obligated to pause,
to soak in and savor the sparks of light.
To observe the flames as they dance.
To be at rest in the mood-lighting of the menorah.
Rabbi Alan Lew, of blessed memory, wrote a wonderful book about Jewish spirituality called Be Still & Get Going.
The beauty of our Jewish tradition rocks us gracefully between these two modes of being in the world.
Be still and get going.
Get going and be still.
When the call comes, say “Elekh, I will go,”
Like Abraham, Rebecca and Ruth.
And when Shabbat comes,
Take a break,
Take a breath.
God whispers to us,
Our ancestors sing to us,
YOU are enough.
YOU are enough exactly as you are.
When those candles are lit,
Let it go.
Let it glow!
May we rejoice in the life-giving wisdom of our Jewish tradition.
May we trust in our ability to know when it is time to be still,
and when it is time to get going.
When it is time to get going,
And when it is time to be still.
When it is time to reflect,
And when it is time to take action.
May we feel our community, our ancestors and the Source of Life and Light with us,
supporting us always,
when we are at motion and when we are at rest.”