sunset manhattan
Back to Stories & Articles

Toward Shabbat: Vayak’hel

It has been a time of great disconnect. For two years, the pandemic has forced us to disconnect from the lives we used to live, from our routines, from family, friends, and community, from the places we used to frequent.  

Beyond the pandemic, all around us is a feeling of crisis and disarraythe politics, the economy, climate change, global conflictsthat is driving us to disconnect from the vision of the future we used to take for granted. Together with this, we are experiencing great ideological and political divisions within our country (other countries are experiencing this too) that have seriously eroded common ground, social cohesion, and solidarity.  

And the most dangerous of all disconnects is, in my view, the growing disconnect from reality that we have witnessed in recent months and years, here and around the world:  The fabrications that question reason, science, vaccines, elections, and more; the halls of mirrors mounted to advance authoritarianism and demagoguery, to extract power and profit, to pit one group against another and one country against another. 

We are watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in disbelief. “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes,” says an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain. Right now, history is unfolding on the basis of a fabricated narrative that justifies war and conquest, and the rhymes are tragic: Russian empire, Soviet state, Cold War, deception, madness. Thousands of human lives are at risk; so much suffering, as well as the independence of a sovereign nation and the future of Europe and the world, is at stake.  

We are all fatigued, and discouraged by the number and the magnitude of our problems, and the whole world seems to be engulfed in discontent. Who has any strength left to swim against the current and to try to reconnect reality to truth, people to people, life to hope?

I don’t believe in shortcuts, magic solutions, or simple universal formulas. Nor do I believe in apocalyptic threats. I believe that the disconnect from truth, from our own humanity, from one another, and from hope are symptoms of a deep global spiritual crisis. As a person of faith, I believe that God provides us with guidanceparticularly in times like theseif we allow God to enter our lives and if we seek God’s voice amidst our breakdown. There is truth embedded in reality, learning and insight to be uncovered.  

In order to find our way and to reconnect, we need to listen more attentivelyto others and to what is going on. We need to study, to read, to reflect, to question, to dialogueall for the sake of deeper understanding and for the sake of truth. We need to participate in rebuilding the social fabric; to create community; to work for solidarity. We need to keep reminding ourselves, in the very midst of the disconnect, of the fundamental teaching of our tradition and to live faithfully in its light: Though our lives, our reality, and our world are so fragmented, interconnectedness and oneness are the deepest truth.  

 

J. Rolando Matalon

Written By J. Rolando Matalon

José Rolando Matalon, B’nai Jeshurun’s senior rabbi and rosh kehilah (head of congregation), was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was educated in Buenos Aires, Montreal, Jerusalem, and New York...

View Profile