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April 2, 2020 4:38 pm

Amid Coronavirus Crisis, Chief Rabbis From Around World Organize #KeepingItTogether Shabbat Initiative

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Rabbi Daniel Schwartz reviews notes on his computer as he gets ready to livestream a Friday night Shabbat service from inside Temple Shir Shalom, a Reform synagogue in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan, on March 27, 2020, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. Photo: Reuters / Emily Elconin.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a group of chief rabbis from around the world have organized a Shabbat observance initiative — under the banner of “Keeping It Together.”

A letter signed by top rabbinical figures from Israel, Russia, South Africa, France, Argentina, Italy, the United Kingdom and Belgium said:

This Shabbat — the Shabbat before Pesach — is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat.

It was first celebrated at the birth of the Jewish people, moments before the dawn of our deliver- ance from Egyptian slavery. 

Every Jewish family, alone in their homes in Egypt, sat fervently anticipating the united dream of deliverance and nationhood. 

3332 years later, this Shabbat HaGadol, we too sit, isolated in our own homes, once again united in our fervent prayer for relief from the global pandemic that has shaken our world to its core. 

We call on Jews around the world to adhere — with total commitment — to the health and safety protocols as set out by their country. We call on Jews around the world to make this Shabbat HaGadol a Shabbat of kindness, a Shabbat of prayer and a Shabbat of connection to the Divine — tapping into the transformative power of Shabbat. 

We call on Jews in every corner of the globe to do these three things: 

Call or message each other with words of support before Shabbat. In our heroic global quest to protect each other, we find ourselves physically cut off from one another. So many of us are completely alone. Call or message someone you know who is alone or struggling, wish them Shabbat Shalom and offer them words of support and encouragement. There is so much we cannot do at this time — but let’s not underestimate the power we have to uplift, encourage and support one another. 

Pray for each other just before candle-lighting. As the devastation of COVID-19 sweeps across the world, so many people need our prayers. Let us pray to our Father in Heaven together — for each other and all humankind. 

Keep this Shabbat together. Let us bring this Shabbat into our homes together and harness its immeasurable invigorating power. Let us connect to light and love and disconnect from the relentless news cycle for a precious 25 hours. Let us fill our homes with the radiant light of Shabbat candles together. Let us proclaim G-d Almighty’s sovereignty over the world, and feel his loving embrace, as we recite Kiddush together. Let’s cook before Shabbat, put away our car keys, dress up, switch off all electronics, eat, sing, pray, hope and dream together. 

This is a time for us to rally together in unity. This is a time for us to be together – to welcome Shabbat in together — as one people with one heart. 

May we all find comfort and strength in Shabbat and each other. 

May it be a Shabbat HaGadol — a Great Shabbat — in the fullest sense of the words. 

And may G-d bring health and healing to His world.”

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