March 11, 2021


3.12.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

There is a LOT going on in the Jewish calendar right now.  On Sunday, we will celebrate Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of a new month.  Passover is fast approaching – it’s only a couple of weeks away.  And this Shabbat, we will read the conclusion of the book of Exodus, as this week’s parashah is a combined Torah portion: Vayakhel-Pekudei.  (What’s more, Daylight Savings time begins on Sunday as well – remember to set your clocks forward!)

At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion we receive a commandment that feels as unexpected as Daylight Savings time does when it arrives every year.  As Moses calls the people together to instruct them concerning their parts in the construction of the Tabernacle, he opens with God’s commandment to the people to keep Shabbat.  “On six days work may be done,” Moses reminds them, “but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord.”  Not long ago, Moses had received and passed on to them this commandment to keep Shabbat as the fourth of the Ten Commandments; one would think that the people would be well aware of this requirement to rest on the seventh day.  Why does Moses restate it here?

Perhaps because the people have already proven their inability to remember – or their inability to follow – God’s instruction.  After all, between God’s stating the Ten Commandments and this week’s Torah portion, the people had already created the Golden Calf – an idol to worship – in flagrant violation of the second commandment.  The people have already indicated that they need reminders of these most essential rules.

Yet the context of the day gave Moses an even more compelling reason to restate the commandment to rest on the seventh day: the people would be taking on the biggest, grandest construction project their community had ever known.  The people were donating their time, their effort, and their most precious physical possessions to create a space for God to dwell in their midst.  What could be more exciting than that?!  When I put myself in their place, I can see how easy it would be for me to get carried away with the work at hand, to want to keep going until the project is done and to completely forget about everything else.

As a community of recovery, we know the dangers of getting caught up in our big, grand, exciting ideas and losing track of – or deciding to ignore – our basic spiritual obligations.  Whether it’s a new project at work, more responsibilities at home, our social activities, or our personal projects, we are often tempted to follow the pull of life’s exciting moments.  And when we do, we are at risk of ignoring our spiritual program.

In recovery, we must always remember that it is our spiritual program – the practices and obligations that keep us in recovery – that enables us to be a part of the world; that gives us the opportunity to be a part of grand and exciting undertakings.  Just as the Jewish people then had the opportunity to build the Tabernacle specifically because they were in relationship with God (through their responsibility to keep God’s commandments), we in recovery now have the opportunity to engage with all that life has to offer specifically because our spiritual program keeps us in relationship with others, with ourselves, and with our Higher Power.

In this exciting moment in the Jewish year, when we have so much going on and so much to look forward to, may we be blessed to renew our focus on our spiritual program: the practices, rituals, and relationships that keep us in recovery.  May we be called back to awareness that our spiritual program is the foundation of our lives; that it empowers us to be fully present for all that life has to offer.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Miriam