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Shabbat is what we need right now

by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

The Shabbat Project: Step Inside

Like Abraham’s tent, the Shabbat Project is a place of shade and relief, open to every Jew.

It’s a sweltering hot day, Abraham is recovering from his circumcision at the age of 99 years – yet he’s sitting at the entrance to his desert tent, waiting restlessly for passersby who may need help.

Right now, the world feels not so different from the same hot sweltering desert. A global pandemic has disrupted our lives in the most profound and unsettling way. Even as the vaccine is helping us get a grip on the virus, there is economic uncertainty and ongoing political instability across the globe.

Abraham’s tent was open on all four sides so that anyone needing rest, comfort and shelter could enter. We read, in this week’s parsha, Vayeira, of Abraham’s evident delight and enthusiasm as he rushes to help a group of desert wayfarers (who unbeknown to him are angels sent by G-d); ushering them into the shade of the tent and plying them with refreshments and cool water. They are provided with life-giving relief from the hardships of their travels. They are left rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to continue their journey, ready to face the desert once again.

At this time, like Abraham’s tent, the Shabbat Project offers us shade and relief from the harshness of our world. It’s a big, shady, welcoming desert tent of healing and connection, love and joy, strength and faith. It can give us the shelter, comfort and support we need to emerge rejuvenated and refreshed, ready to tackle the great challenges that lie before us.

Of course, Abraham’s tent was not just a place of physical rejuvenation in the desert, but also a spiritual oasis in an idolatrous and morally parched world. In it, Abraham and Sarah spread the values of ethical monotheism to everyone who walked through the open flaps of their tent.

The Shabbat Project, too, is a spiritual oasis in whose shade we reconnect with Shabbat, which has sustained us through the most arid and hostile - and good - times. We take shelter beneath its eternal values.

When we keep Shabbat, we reconnect with our families and the people around us, with our inner selves, and with our Creator. We feel the presence of God in our midst, and remind ourselves that whatever we are going through, we are held by Him.

And like Abraham’s tent, the Shabbat Project is open on all sides, to Jews of all backgrounds. It’s a welcoming space where we can all congregate and find shelter in the relief and joy of Shabbat, whatever our differences. Shabbat belongs to every Jew.

As I write this, thousands of volunteer partners in hundreds of cities across the world are once again pitching the Shabbat Project tent, Its flaps open wide for Jews of every persuasion to enjoy its life-giving shade.

Let us all keep the Shabbat of Parshat Vayera on 22/23 October. Let us step into the cool shelter Shabbat provides, drawing comfort and renewed strength from those 25 magical, meaningful hours. And let us keep this Shabbat together – together with our families, together with Jews around the world.

The Shabbat Project takes place on the 22-23 October.

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Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein is the chief rabbi of South Africa and the founder of The Shabbat Project.

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