The last few years have inevitably reshaped how we connect with other people. We’ve lost what was so natural to us, to gather in-person. There have been good reasons of course, but it has also become habit-forming and not always in a good way.

We are built to be in community and in the presence of others, and this is the message from the Torah this week. Having lived in the spiritual isolation as slaves for so many generations, the Israelites are in the desert and are commanded to contribute all sorts of goods in order to build a sanctuary – what we would call a temple or a church or a mosque today. This would become their spiritual centre but more importantly, it was a reminder of the importance of gathering and ingathering. We are meant to be connected with others. We are happier and safer and have a deeper sense of fulfillment and purpose, whether we gather as community or simply with close friends.

I have had these challenges as well, but am also pushing forward against the inertia. We created a list: who haven’t we seen socially in a long time, and we have surprised friends with invitations for dinners out. And I have been reminded, “Oh yeah, this is what life is all about.”

I am seeing this same untapped desire in my community. Our Tu B’ishvat seder at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights three weeks ago actually oversold! And it makes me excited to see what will happen with our Shabbat Across Winnipeg event on Friday March 10, with our partner congregation Shaarey Zedek. And then again with our Passover Community Seder in early April.

Let’s remember that we are meant to be in community, and by that, I mean in physical presence, and always in ways that are healthy and safe. Isolation is a choice and so is gathering in community. I hope to see more and more of you in the days, weeks and months ahead…and with your friends in tow. They might become my friends as well.

Shabbat Shalom,   Rabbi Allan