D’var Torah: Rabbi Marcia R. Plumb (Vayakhel- Pikudei)

שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַיהוָ֑ה כָּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֥ה ב֛וֹ מְלָאכָ֖ה יוּמָֽת׃ 

On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Eternal; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

לֹא־תְבַעֲר֣וּ אֵ֔שׁ בְּכֹ֖ל מֹשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶ֑ם בְּי֖וֹם הַשַּׁבָּֽת׃ (פ 

You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the sabbath day.

During this pandemic and election season many of us have been watching the news non-stop. I know I was. I checked every morning  and every evening to find out what bad news had emerged during the night, or while I was working. Every day, it seemed that there was another crisis or disturbing political drama. The news created an internal fire for many of us. It has been as if what we read in the paper added fuel to the fire of our pandemic anxiety. 

Also, we have all been struggling with Zoom fatigue,the tiredness and neural stress that comes from extreme computer use. The dedicated Schechter students, teachers, administrators, and parents have all been using the incredible technology that has enabled us to learn, teach and work while in lockdown. While we are grateful for it, we also know that Zoom fatigue is a real experience, studied by Stanford University. One of the things researchers suggest is turning off Zoom regularly. 

We Jews already have a system in place for following this scientific recommendation. We have the mitzvah from our double parasha this week, Vayakhel- Pikudei. Stop working on Shabbat. Rest. Kindle no fire. Let go of anything that kindles our anxiety or inner psychological burning. 

Shabbat has been my salvation from news and screen overload. It is the only day I avoid the TV and computer. I do lead Shabbat services online, but I still find that taking an extended break from headlines, and looking at people up close, sitting all day and staring at myself on a screen is a huge relief. It feels like putting out a fire.

The commandment to keep Shabbat is a gift I have always treasured, but this year, it has been crucial for my well-being. I hope that this Shabbat will bring you peace of mind, a restful soul, and healing for your heart. 

By Rabbi Marcia R. Plumb, Congregation Mishkan Tefila, Brookline

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