We recently commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day, a time during which we recall the devastation that hate left unchecked can bring. The best way we can honour the survivors of such atrocities, is to use their tragedy to shape our lives today, and above all to learn from the people that didn’t just “stand by”.
We live in a world wherein we are blessed to enjoy the quality of life on a scale never seen for generations. Yet there seems to be a disproportionate sense of inconsistency between progress on the one hand, and human disconnect on the other – why? I believe that consumer based marketing and advertising is the reason behind this sense of disconnect. In fact, I would suggest that marketing and advertising is there to create dissatisfaction and misery.
Advertising creates an illusion of perfection. The endless loop of a seven day culture is a wonderful way of distributing artificial misery. It causes us to define ourselves in what we lack and not what we have. It is precisely for this reason, that the biblical narrative within the book of Exodus asks us to prioritize the observance and sanctity of the Sabbath, over and above the compelling commandment in relation to the building of a Mishkan , the Synagogue, a home and dwelling place for the almighty. In the course of our being in
structed in the building of the Mishkan, we are asked to switch off and “Stand By”.
Shabbat is a time to “stand by” when we stop acquiring and spending, and instead learn to cherish what we have rather than what we do not. Spirituality is what tells us that “man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that comes from the mouth of God.” In essence spirituality is what hapens when we open ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Some find it in the beauty of nature, art, or music. Others find it in prayer, lighting the Shabbat Candles, or in learning a sacred text. At a certain point in the modern age, many Jews have pioneered in Physics, medicine, sociology, mathematics, and philosophy. They became shapers of the modern mind. But in the process, many have lost their sense Jewish identity and intimacy with God that resonated so powerfully with our ancestors.
And so it is that, we will soon be called to re-tell the story. The story of our identity that links us to our past, guides us in the present, and places upon us the responsibility for our future. As we gather around the Seder table during the upcoming Passover Holiday to re-live and experience the narrative of our Exodus we will not be asked did we or did we not “stand by”, but rather, we will be recalling that moment and memory in history when the supreme power intervened to liberate the supremely powerless, together with the covenant that followed. Let us celebrate our ability to recline together, and enjoy the freedom that comes from the freedom of Passover.