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Rabbi's Weekly Message

Rabbi Wexler - Thursday, February 25

Tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate the holiday of Purim. This year, Purim feels like a particularly significant milepost as it will mark a full year, at least as far as the holiday cycle is concerned, of the Pandemic. Purim 2020 was the last time we gathered together as a TBS community in-person. Once we celebrate Purim, we will have celebrated every Jewish holiday in quarantine, every Jewish holiday virtually rather than in-person. We feel both hope and gratitude as more and more people get vaccinated each day, and as the COVID-positive numbers are finally trending downward, yet our lives are still very much upside down. So much has changed over the last year: the way we socialize, the sort of work deemed most essential, and the way we participate in community. We have even changed our appearance, hiding hands and halves of faces from the world. Like Queen Esther, hiding her identity as a Jew until the time was right, we are hiding our full selves from the world, in body and in garb, for the sake of our people.

Our tradition knows something about sacred garb. In this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, God instructs the Israelites to make special clothing for Aaron, the high priest, and his sons. The garments are described in great detail, from the materials to the exact placement of precious jewels. While we might assume that these garments are ceremonial and exist for the purpose of honoring the priests, we read in the Torah portion that this clothing is in fact protective. The garments are to be worn when the priests put themselves in danger by entering the Tent of Meeting — the place where God’s presence dwells. We read in Exodus 28:43: “[The garments] shall be worn by Aaron and his sons when they enter the Tent of Meeting or when they approach the altar to officiate in the sanctuary, so that they do not incur punishment and die.” In other words, these priestly garments are what we might call the original PPE.

Today, we no longer have priests nor a Tabernacle or a Temple. Instead of relying upon designated leaders to attend to the sacred tasks, we all carry responsibility. Therefore, allow me to suggest that when each of us puts on a mask during this Pandemic, we actually embody the work of the High Priest Aaron, acting on behalf of our whole people. We embody Queen Esther, hiding a part of ourselves temporarily in order to serve our people in the long run.

It has been a long, difficult winter. Researchers have shown that “mask fatigue” and “Pandemic fatigue” are real and should not be taken lightly. We wish that we could be all be together in person this Purim to boo Haman, share hamantaschen, sing Purim songs, and exchange handshakes and hugs we have gone without for far too long. That day will eventually come. In the meantime, I hope you will join us tonight and tomorrow on Zoom for our Purim celebrations. And I hope that we will all continue to do the work of Aaron and his sons; wearing our sacred garb in order to keep ourselves, our families, and our community safe and healthy.

Wishing everyone a Purim Sameah and a Shabbat Shalom.

A Guide for Zooming Shabbat and Holiday Services

“The Shabbat services that we offer over Zoom help keep us spiritually connected while we are physically distant. Though we normally do not use electronic devices on Shabbat, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement considers this to be a hora’at sha’ah, an extraordinary time, which allows us to make an exception to our normal observance. You can read the halakahic ruling (teshuvah) that comprehensively addresses our situation here. Even though we are using technology to gather for services on Shabbat and holidays, we still try to minimize the use of our devices in honor of Shabbat. Click here to see our guide to help with this.

A PDF version of Siddur Lev Shalem is available HERE or can be purchased at the TBS office for $54 each.

TBS@Home

While our physical building is closed, we are excited to share with you many ways to connect and engage with our TBS family in the upcoming week through our Zoom programs. Check the TBS calendar for listings.

To join a Zoom session, click on the link at the designated time. You can also call into the number provided and enter in the meeting ID number.

Thu, March 4 2021 20 Adar 5781