I write these words as we bid farewell to Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Consolation. This special name derives from Today’s Haftarah, which opens with Isaiah preaching: ‘Be comforted, my people!’ says your God.The calamities of the 9th of Av are followed by seven shabbatot, whose prophetic readings are all about consola-tion and healing. This past Friday night I asked folks at shul where, as Jews, they find their spiritual source of com-fort? And they offered a thoughtful and interesting range of responses.
Right now, as we pivot toward the coming new year, I’m focusing on Shul, the space we gather in for prayer, for learning, for holiday celebration and for marking milestones like Consecrations, b’nai mitzvah, Confirmations, and weddings, the place where we share yizkor and kaddish — Shul.
When we gather in shul, we’re a family. And our family’s spiritual home is Shul. So I need to speak urgently to you about Shalom Bayit, peace in the house, domestic tranquility. Shalom Bayit is the vitally important social glue that holds so many individuals in this sacred family relationship.
In so many articles these days, across the media, pervading our culture, I sense a lot of tension — spoken and un-spoken — around politics. When it’s shul time — whether it’s a time for prayer or socializing — please, please, please — let’s not talk politics. Argue about religion? Yes, by all means! Shul is a refuge from the shrill culture wars.
OK — you’ve all known me long enough for some of you to be saying: is this the same Rubinstein as the rabbi who has strongly opined politically in the sermons of years past? Yes. Because while I’m sure that there are times that call for a rabbi to speak up, I have to —all shul leaders have to —think about safeguarding the shul as a space of refuge from the all the 24/7 political noise. I’m urging us all to tend to Shalom Bayit, to leave partisan politics at the door. Our Shul is a loving and sacred space, a much-needed haven.
Wrap up: I can see this bulletin message clearly calls for a quick Bob Dylan chorus…
I’ve heard newborn babies wailin’ like a mournin’ dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn
Come in, she said
I’ll give you shelter from the storm
Thanks, Bob. We needed that. The new year of 5779 is coming. The choir is tuning up. Davening will be sweet. As we turn our hearts toward the new year, may we be there for each other, with each other, sustaining each other, listening to each other, sheltering with each other.