It’s been one week since a devastating earthquake struck Japan. The quake was followed by a tsunami, which caused serious damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. As I write this, the Japanese military is actively working to cool the reactors, but radiation has leaked from the damaged site.
The news coverage is filled with heartbreaking stories of death, loss, and fear. Just yesterday I saw a story about a young family in Tokyo with an 8 month old daughter—the same age as my baby. They had helmets and masks in their home, and a car waiting outside in case they needed to leave quickly. My heart broke for them, and I felt simultaneously incredibly fortunate and also ashamed of every time I have complained about something as trivial as a manageable snowstorm or a daughter with strep throat.
I have all of this on my mind as we move into Shabbat, our day of rest. As George Robinson notes, “Shabbat is meant to be a day of peace. It offers us a chance for peace with nature, with society, and with ourselves. The prohibitions on work are designed to make us stop–if only for one day of the week–our relentless efforts to tame, to conquer, to subdue the earth and everything on it.”
The universe has done a pretty good job this week of reminding us in such a powerful, painful way that there is much in this world beyond our control. At a time when there is so much suffering and the future of an entire nation feels uncertain, perhaps Shabbat is just what we need. The introspection that often accompanies a slower pace can be especially challenging in times such as these, and it’s tempting to stay busy and distracted, or glue ourselves to the news. Thankfully, we are reminded that Shabbat may be most important when life’s challenges feel overwhelming. The time, space, and peace of Shabbat help us reconnect with that which is most important, which we often lose sight of during the rest of our hectic weeks. So, this Shabbat, may we all have a day of reflection and perspective, of gratitude for the many blessings we have, and of prayers for the people of Japan.