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Empty Pockets

10/28/2020 05:46:35 PM


Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

A rabbi noticed a young man – a stranger – enter the sanctuary on Shabbat and sit in the back row. It was apparent to the rabbi that the young man was unfamiliar with the service, and that he did not seem to know anyone else in the sanctuary.

At the beginning of the Torah service, during the processional, the rabbi welcomed the young man; they shook hands, smiling.

Later, during Kiddush, the young man seemed a bit lost. But some congregants approached him, wished him a Shabbat Shalom, and he joined them at their regular table. The rabbi soon joined them too.

As the Kiddush crowd thinned out, the rabbi and some congregants decided to take a walk around a nearby park. The rabbi asked the young man to join them.  As they headed out of the social hall, the rabbi asked the group, “What’s in your pockets?”

“Key fob.””House keys.”  “My wallet.” “A phone.” All the regular stuff.

“How about we all leave our stuff in my office? It’ll be safe. Let’s walk with empty pockets.” So that’s what they did.

As they began their circuit of the park, the young man asked the rabbi, “Why did you want to know what was in our pockets? And why did we leave it all behind?”

“On Shabbat,” the rabbi answered, “On Shabbat, we remember that our cars, our homes, our money are only what we have; they are not who we are. On Shabbat, we remind ourselves not to be possessed by our possessions. On Shabbat, we realize that we are all equally children before God.”

Friends, I pray for a time when a story like this can truly be realized – a time when we can welcome a young man into the midst of our communities without being justifiably anxious; a time when we can be in each other’s physical presence without feeling a different sort of anxiety.

And I pray that when we are together again, we can reach a deeper understanding of Shabbat – that it is about shalom and menucha, peace and a true rest from the constant striving for stuff, and from the petty worries of our lives.

May that day come to us speedily!


Rabbi Jeffrey Weill

Tue, August 3 2021 25 Av 5781