United Hebrew Congregation, 13788 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO 63141 | 314-469-0700

July 24, 2020 – Devarim

Shabbat Message from Rabbi Adam Bellows

The first shlish of Parashat Devarim is Deuteronomy 1:1-2:1.

When we wish someone a “Shabbat Shalom”, what are we really wishing? The words translate as “Sabbath Peace” or “Sabbath Wholeness”. If you have ever heard Rabbi Kaplansky, our Rabbi Emeritus, offer the Priestly Benediction, you are aware that he translates “Shalom” as “Wholeness” or “Completeness.” So when we offer someone a “Shabbat Shalom”, we are wishing them completeness.

Wholeness is especially important to someone who is, in many ways, broken. You may or may not know that on June 17th, I broke my leg. I stepped wrongly onto my foot, fell, and broke my fibula in two spots (I learned that’s the bone behind my shin bone). I have since had surgery and am healing splendidly. However, only a week after my injury, I learned my mother is nearing the end of her life with no hope of recovery. I visited her, my father, and my siblings in Chicago, and I said my good-byes.

Thus, I am not only broken physically — I am broken emotionally and spiritually, as well. Yet, I doubt I am alone. It has been around five months since COVID began ramping up in the United States. The world may seem broken, our country may seem broken, even we may seem broken. What do we do when we are so broken? How can we become whole or complete again?

This week’s Torah portion, Devarim, reminds us what makes the Jewish people whole: each other. The Book of Deuteronomy, which we begin this week, mostly consists of Moses on the side of a mountain. He repeats much of the Torah and tries his best to bestow wisdom unto the people.

One of the first official mandates Moses enacts at the beginning of this book is the delegation of leadership. Moses knows he cannot lead the people alone. He assigns elders from each tribe to share the burden of governance. Even Moses knows he is not complete without others. He cannot go it alone. He needs his community.

I have benefited greatly from this community over the past month. From well wishes to swell dishes (Sorry for the rhyme. I had to.), I have felt the wholeness of our UH community. Our solidarity makes me complete. So really my Shabbat shalom, my wholeness, my completeness, is all of you.

In this age of COVID, an age of seemingly unending brokenness, only together will we triumph. Only together will we piece our world back together. Only together will we find peace. Only together while we find healing. Only together are we whole. May we connect and embrace each other this Shabbat. May we find peace. May we find Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom!