Shabbat Message from Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu
You might be reading this on your laptop, or most probably your phone. You have had a year of interacting through a screen. You may have family a very long way away. We are slowly starting to behave like brains attached to screens, to imagine that things are better like this. That our bodily experiences scarecely count. Perhaps this is how you are beginning to think?
Well, let me say that having Covid has abruptly changed my way of thinking. I too was being drawn into this remote way of connecting. But ten days after my positive Covid test, a few days of fever, and now dealing with some tricky physical symptoms, I can say this experience has really been a moment for some deep thinking and a spiritual re-set. Because being ill is a powerful reminder of what Judaism is. Our entire religious and cultural experience is about the experience of living, as physically human. Sanctifying the act of breathing, eating, drinking, even going to the loo! There is a blessing for all of them. The Torah this week describes our reality of blessing. And none of these blessings is disembodied or purely spiritual. Goodness, connection, relationship with the One- all are expressed in physical reality. Rain, fertility, a relationship with the land. Physical abundance and having enough to eat.
Judaism does not want us to detach our bodies from souls. We don’t aim for answers in an afterlife. We simply never have dreamt of disembodied perfection. In fact, we are the opposite. Our blessings are in every-day. Giving thanks for the breath of life and for ordinary, messy, and imperfect embodied living. You can’t get more holy than that.