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Vayechi 5781 ~ January 1, 2021

Just a few days ago a congregant sent me an email saying that unfortunately she was unable to attend one of our services, but that she would see me on Shabbat morning. She ended her email with “have a god Shabbat.”  Clearly in typing she had created a Freudian slip…or did she? The missing “o” was the feeling I felt when I initially read the note. It created an added dimension about having a very spiritual Shabbat that had God within it. It is one thing to have a good Shabbat, surrounded by family and friends, but to have a godly Shabbat requires a heightened level of an experiential Shabbat.  

Imagine, as we recite our blessing over the candles, wine and challah, that we sense Hashem’s presence in our midst on a more spiritual level than simply that of saying the berachot, eating a meal together and even going to shul.  Imagine including God!

Often I ask students, as they read the Torah with me, to stop when they read the words  “Vayedaber Hashem,” translated “God spoke.”  I ask them what they just experienced… they look dumbfounded.  I ask them, “When was the last time you had a conversation with God or that God spoke to you with words?“ After a quick chuckle they begin to understand, realizing the awesomeness of the spiritual moment of what was experienced by the Biblical character. How easy it is for us to miss the wonder of God speaking, or sensing God’s presence…. no different than the typographical error of our congregant.  

In our Torah portion for this Shabbat, as the patriarch Jacob’s life comes to a close, blesses his grandchildren Ephraim and Menashe that the God of his fathers - the one who has been his shepherd throughout life and the angel of God who watched over him in life - should bless these lads. The Eitz Hayim commentary shares with us that Shneur Zalman of Lyady used to say on this verse that “the most valuable legacy we can leave” to future generations is faith.  Faith requires the added dimension beyond the rote recitation of the words… it requires adding the spiritual dimension that carries over to create a godly experience, not only when we utter Hashem’s name, but when we are blessed by the presence of God, too.   I, therefore, end this message with the lesson of our congregant, albeit not a Freudian slip: “May you have a god Shabbat.”

Happy New Year and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi K

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782