The Noah Story, read this week, is the story of civilizations eroding and being washed away. Who among us sees the waters rising? Who among us is flooded with anxiety and fear? Who among us is looking for safe shelter from the threatening storms?
I’ve been reflecting on our congregational experience of the High Holy Days. It was extraordinary in every way. Why were thousands drawn to the screen? Why did some go to such great effort to call the helpline for personal instruction to join in the virtual services? Why did 439 people take the time to fill out the post-High Holy Day survey to express their feedback and gratitude? I don’t think it was simple inertia, dictated by the calendar. I think we were climbing into a kind of ark – two by two, one by one, family by family.
Have you ever looked up at the ceiling of our Main Sanctuary? Every time I look at it now, that’s all I can see – an impressive, hand-crafted container, strong enough to carry us all, wide enough to hold our cargo of heavy hearts laden with heavy prayers while the winds grow more threatening outside.
Society is beginning to splinter. The wooden beams are beginning to bend. If we are listening, we can hear them crack under the weight of it all. The winter storms are brewing now. There’s no denying it. So we close our windows and lock our doors and self-isolate as we must, but it’s lonely in our own hiding places.
Upon reflection, I believe we joined in such great numbers throughout the High Holy Days because — just as instinctively as the animals of Noah’s time — we decided it was time to leave our own burrows and caves and to climb onto the ark instead. Individual needs gave way to a greater collective event. With a little imagination, we could take spiritual shelter in the Temple and emotional comfort in one another. We were each a part of something larger. Our own lives, which had grown smaller, were invited to expand again. And it felt good – uplifting, important.
As Shabbat Noach is about to begin, please remember that the door to this Temple-ark is always open to you. You have a standing invitation to take your place among our sacred congregation through prayer, sacred study, purposeful volunteerism, and meaningful connection. Even now. Especially now. No one should have to ride out this storm alone. We don’t know when the thunder will roll on or when we will be able to come to rest on dry land again. But God did promise never flood the earth again. This too shall pass.
Shabbat Shalom. In honour of Shabbat Noach, all pets are welcome to join us in the Virtual Atrium tomorrow after services. See you there. Click here to join us.