A message from Rabbi Joel:
It has been hard to stay connected to the normal cycles and rhythms of our lives during the coronavirus lockdown. Before Covid-19 many of those cues were provided by the outside world (I have to be at work at 9 so I need to be on the tube at 8, so I need to leave for the station at…); and we have had to adjust to finding and setting some of these cues for ourselves. It is far easier to become disconnected from time in our new disconnected world. A similar process has happened regarding the background Jewish beats of our lives. Our ears and hearts may be more or less attuned to the regular pulse of a Jewish day, with its set times for blessing and prayer; the Jewish week with the 6:1 beat of work to rest, activity to passivity; and the soaring cycle of the year from Pesach to Shavuot to Sukkot and the High Holy Days. But whether those ancient rhythms are central to your sense of time or peripheral, it is clearly harder to hear them in isolation. If those rhythms are to continue at the current time, then no one but us can beat the drum!
We have almost ended the counting of the Omer: the 39-day cycle of counting from Pesach to Shavuot. At sunset on Thursday night we will have completed the full 49 days, and Shavuot, 'The time of the giving of our Torah', will be upon us. Normally many KNMS members and friends would gather together to learn all night and begin to pray with the birds at 'Amud HaShachar' – the first light on the eastern horizon.
This year will be a little different, as gathering together physically is still impossible, and Zooming together as a community on the festival is not consistent with almost all halachic understandings of, and aspirations towards, a 'day of rest'.
This year we will gather on Zoom at 7pm to begin a community conversation about the Bible's vision of power, politics and democracy. From 7 to 8pm we will hear from different members and friends of the community, and then from 8 to 8:30 Nahum will introduce his excellent source pack of central biblical sources. We recommend printing off the sources in preparation for Thursday night. After 8:30 we will turn off Zoom and return to our local worlds of flesh and blood to carry on the conversation by reading and debating the sources. We encourage everyone to continue learning through the night with family, children, friends or even by ourselves. If the rhythm of Shavuot is to continue at the current time, then no one but us can beat the drum!
We will meet again on Zoom on Sunday morning to pray, hear Megillat Ruth and share thoughts from our learning.
These are hard times, not least because we are forced to find inner resources to deal with situations that we used to confront in community. I can only hope and pray that just as birdsong has become louder as the traffic noise has receded, so we will come to hear the faint inner rhythms of our lives more clearly as the external noise subsides.
Click here to view or download the study materials.