SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA Dvar Torah – March 1, 2019
Tonight, is the twenty-third annual SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA, sponsored by NJOP (National Jewish Outreach Program is now NJOP). Tonight, SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA is being celebrated in over ___ locations, in ___ U.S. states and ___ Canadian provinces.
By participating in SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA, you join in a grand celebration of Shabbat that ties together Jews from all walks of life, who are participating in synagogues of all denominations, and connecting to Jews all across the North American continent and beyond.
This Shabbat we read in the Torah both parashat Vayakkhel and the special Torah portion for parashat Shekalim, that describes the half shekel donation given in Temple times to the Temple treasury to support the Temple’s budget, but also to serve as a way of conducting a census of the nation.
Parashat Vayakhel’s opening verses (Exodus 35) juxtapose two major themes: the mandate to construct a mishkan -- a portable tabernacle, with the call to observe the Sabbath. Prior to mentioning both of these lofty directives, Moses gathers all of the Children of Israel.
A famed Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Abraham Bornstein, the first Rebbe of Sochatchov (1838-1910, Poland) found significance in the order of the three items that are mentioned in the opening verses of Vayakhel: 1) first a call to unify and to gather the nation, 2) then an admonition to observe the Sabbath, and 3) only then are the people encouraged to erect the Tabernacle. Rabbi Bornstein points out that prior to consecrating the Tabernacle, individual Israelites would sacrifice to God on bamot, elevated stages that were found throughout the Israelite camp. With the consecration of the Tabernacle, use of the bamot became prohibited. As the sacrificial order became unified, the Jewish nation was united with the Tabernacle serving as the nation’s headquarters. For this reason, advances the Sochatchover Rebbe, the command to unify and gather came first, followed by Shabbat, the special sacred day that holds the secret of Jewish unity. Only after those first two levels of unity are established, does the third takes place, centralizing Jewish worship by consecrating the Tabernacle.
For 23 consecutive years, SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA has transformed the Divine mandate and the
Divine gift of Shabbat into an international movement and phenomenon. SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA‘s goal has always been to unify North American Jewry through the sanctity of Shabbat. NJOP has passionately endeavored to bond Jews to their Jewish birthright and heritage. Whether through Hebrew reading, SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA, Crash Courses in Basic Judaism and Jewish History, Holiday programs, or a robust social media presence, NJOP has built bridges between Jews and fellow Jews, and between Jews and their Judaism.
Tonight is SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA because hundreds of dedicated Jewish professionals and volunteers have made it so. Tonight is SHABBAT ACROSS AMERICA AND CANADA because tens of thousands of North American Jews have decided to spend Shabbat night together in fellowship with co-religionists, engaging in Jewish life and contemplating our collective Jewish future. Each and every one of NJOP’s partners - comprised of synagogues, military bases, Hillel houses, Moishe Houses, JCCs, Federations and outreach centers - have committed to the notion that when we celebrate Shabbat together, the observance is ennobled, and becomes more uplifting, uniting us all.
Thank you for attending and elevating this particular Shabbat, and transforming it into a collective one with this community and with hundreds of others across North America and beyond.