Shabbat in the Time of Coronavirus: Finding Peace and Joy When You Need it Most

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Special thanks to Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg, Chief Operating Officer of The Rabbinical Assembly, for help with resources for this article.

In this strange and challenging time, as we navigate new ways of managing our lives and schedules due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there are aspects of Shabbat practice that are more difficult than usual. Many of us who wish to attend synagogue or to share Shabbat meals with friends and relatives find that we are unable to do so, and the loss of these Shabbat experiences can be frustrating and painful. The flip side, though, is that some of us may find that we are better able to embrace certain aspects of Shabbat practice – like spending “unplugged” time at home with our families – given our current circumstances. When we’re faced with change and uncertainty, the calming, contemplative nature of Shabbat prayers and traditions can anchor us and keep us spiritually whole. We hope that the resources below will enable you to deepen and enhance your observance of Shabbat and help you find peace and comfort as we all navigate uncharted waters.

  • For those who need to say Kaddish but are unable to join a minyan, the Rabbinical Assembly has provided a Prayer In Place of Mourner's Kaddish, adapted from Siddur Lev Shalem by Rabbi Jan Uhrbach.
  • If you’d like to add a prayer about the current situation to your Shabbat prayer and meditation, you can use Rabbi Naomi Levy’s Prayer of Hope During This Pandemic, made available by the Rabbinical Assembly.
  • Netilat Yadayim (ritual handwashing) is a part of the traditional Shabbat home ritual – and of course the practice of washing our hands has taken on many layers of additional significance in light of the pandemic. To add additional meaning to this ritual, consider Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s piece Netilat Yadayim: Sanctifying Our Primary Moral Instrument from My Jewish Learning.
  • Are you at home with young children, and hoping to make Shabbat a joyful (and relatively peaceful) experience? PJ Library Resources for Quarantined Families offers ideas for interactive family activities, as well as tips for creative ways in which the whole family can help prepare for a joyful Shabbat.
  • BimBam has a wonderful collection of short, family-friendly videos that can help you brush up on your Shabbat blessings and songs.
  • For online versions of the Shabbat blessings, and to find ideas for bringing the ambiance of Shabbat into your home, see the Rabbinical Assembly’s collection of Shabbat Resources.
  • Although it’s good to know the latest facts, many people may be finding that the constant stream of coronavirus updates on the news and on social media is becoming overwhelming. Shabbat presents a valuable opportunity to “unplug” from our electronics and take a step back from the news. Ritualwell offers a Ritual for Turning Off Devices Before Shabbat that can help us sanctify this practice.
  • Also from Ritualwell, a list of Seven Ways to Make Friday Night Special, featuring suggestions for activities, meditations, and discussion topics.

Wishing you a Shabbat of peace, safety, and health.

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