When Shabbat Ends, There Is Work to Be Done

Posted on May 27, 2022 by Rabbi Arnie Gluck

This evening, we should be gathering in pure celebration — of Shabbat, of God’s creation, and of the loving fellowship of our community. Instead, our celebration is mingled with sorrow, with lamentation, as we grieve the horrific destruction of life — in Buffalo, in Ukraine, and, this past Tuesday, in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered in school — in school, where children should be nurtured and nourished, and safe.

The Book of Lamentations is called Eichah in Hebrew. Eichah, its opening word, is a gut-wrenching cry of anguish. Eichah, how? How can such things happen? Eichah? How to bear the pain of such devastation, such horror, such loss? Eichah?

On Tuesday afternoon, a beloved colleague called me in tears, a rabbi in need of a rabbi to offer consolation. “I weep along with you,” I replied. “I have no words of comfort, only grief for the tragic and senseless destruction of innocent life. “But it’s not going to stop,” he cried. “It will never end!” “It certainly feels that way,” I said, “but we must not despair. We Jews never stop hoping and praying for better times to come.”

And so, as we gather tonight to welcome Shabbat, we begin by expressing our grief and our anguish. What we have witnessed is heartbreaking, and so we join in lamentation and give voice to our pain. But grief and lamentation must not be the last words, for it is God’s will that broken hearts be made whole again, that wounded souls be healed. And so, we will also pray for healing. And then, we will make a conscious shift, as an act of will and intention, to enter another dimension, one that transcends death and mourning.

On Shabbat, we experience the world as God intended it to be — a world of harmony, peace, and wholeness. Mourners rise from shivah, remove their torn garments, and join the community in prayer and celebration of God’s gift of life. It is a foretaste and a sign of the time-to-come, when the darkness of evil and hatred will be dispelled and a “sun of righteousness shall rise with healing on its wings” (Malachi 3:20), when “God will bind up the wounds and heal the brokenness of God’s people” (Isaiah 30:26), when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks…when every person shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:3-4).

Tonight, we will rise to greet the Sabbath Bride with joy and hope for healing. But we will do so knowing that when Shabbat ends there is work to be done — work to bring the day for which we yearn, to realize the vision for which we pray.

We must turn our anguish into action and our cries of pain into demands for change. We must insist that our nation reject the culture of death and enact common-sense gun-control measures — the kind of measures that have been enacted in every other western nation to prevent the kind of carnage we have endured.

In the coming days we will be announcing a local rally and vigil, along with other ways you can make your voice heard. Tonight, we use our voices to pray. In the days ahead, we will pray with our feet as we gather to call for an end to the violence that plagues our land.

Let us pray with all our hearts. Dear God, Healer of the broken-hearted and Binder of their wounds, mend the souls of all who grieve and restore their hope. Lift our spirits and strengthen our will to choose life and blessing, peace, and joy for all Your children. And let us heed the words of the psalmist, who bid us to “be strong and of good courage! And hope in God.” (Psalm 27:14)

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Arnie Gluck