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Jews Across the World Unite

October 1, 2014 | by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

What better way to go into Yom Kippur than joining the world in keeping one complete Shabbat together.

Yom Kippur is the most optimistic day of the year. It is the day that God declares His faith in us and our ability to change, improve and actualize greatness. This optimism is rooted in the fact that the calling to become better people is not beyond our reach; it is in fact a journey back to our inner selves.

God Himself encourages us when He says: “For this commandment that I command you today is not hidden from you, nor is it far away. It is not in the heavens … nor is it across the oceans … for rather this matter is very close to you in your mouth and in your heart to do.”
(Devarim 30:11-14)

Through these verses God is telling us something fundamental. We are all capable of achieving greatness. We are much stronger and resourceful than we can ever imagine; and most importantly – the mitzvot are accessible, doable and close to our hearts.

It is this optimistic spirit that has been at the very heart of The Shabbat Project since its dramatic birth last year. At the time it was first announced there were many sceptics who said that calling on all South African Jews to keep one complete Shabbos together was asking too much. Yet the overwhelming response silenced every pessimistic voice.

This year’s International Shabbat Project has seen the wave of support continue to roll across the world as momentum gathers in over 340 cities in 35 countries, where people are actively working on bringing The Shabbos Project to their communities. As if overnight, a movement of the people has arisen.

The message of The Shabbat Project is that Shabbos is not in the heavens and not across the oceans; it is not beyond our reach; it does not stretch us outside of ourselves but takes us back to who we really are.

The Shabbat Project is rooted in a deep and profound optimism and faith in the Jewish people and in our deep and natural connection to our heritage and one another. We always talk about faith in Him, but He has faith in us, and so too we need to have faith in ourselves.

We are living through momentous times of Jewish destiny. As we peer into the future, there seems to be so many challenges and threats gathering on the horizon.

Our State of Israel is surrounded by enemies on all sides and anti-semitism continues to raise its ugly head across the world. But we cannot forget that Jewish destiny is a journey of faith and optimism. Jewish destiny is about the establishment of the State of Israel in the shadow of the Holocaust. It is about light and miracles overcoming darkness.

No matter where we are, we are always close. No matter how far away we drift or are pushed “this matter is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do”.

And so, as we prepare for this Yom Kippur, let all of Am Yisrael – the Jewish people – gather in unity throughout the world and dedicate ourselves to embracing The Shabbat Project, to fulfil the vision of these verses and of our eternal destiny and to reciprocate God’s faith and great optimism in our common future. Together we can do it. Together we can experience one Shabbat; together we can reach higher and become greater. It is not in the heavens and it is not across the oceans; it is within us.

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