This week, we are mindful of the blessing of having clean air to breathe, something we take for granted most days. As the smoke and haze from forest fires burning in Quebec at last cleared today, as our preschool children returned to our outdoor playground, we exhaled. We inhaled, aware of our connection to people and trees so many miles away, and to all beings everywhere.
This evening, we will breathe in the nourishing ruach of Shabbat.
Each week, we transition into Shabbat and mark the sanctity of the seventh day with the kindling of the Shabbat candles, welcoming in the Divine presence and the Sabbath Queen. In our parsha, B’ha’alot’kha, we are reminded of how God’s presence was known to us in the wilderness, like those candles, as a pillar of fire by night, and in the daytime, as a pillar of cloud. Light guided our path in the darkness of the desert, and cool mist sheltered us from the sun.
This is how our Israelite ancestors traveled through the wilderness: whenever the cloud lifted from the Tent, the Israelites understood that it was time to set out. They would continue on their march until the cloud settled again upon the tent of indwelling at the heart of the camp. Then and there the Israelites would make camp.
Through the cloud and the pillar of fire, we would discern when to move and when to rest.
As in the years of our journeying through the wilderness,
as the clouds of the week make way for the glow of the Shabbat candles,
may we feel the presence of Shechinah, Divine spirit, in our midst.
May this presence suffuse our sacred spaces and fill our hearts.
May we breathe it in.
May our Shabbat practice be a source of life and healing for us and for our earth.