For those who don’t live in the DC Area this Saturday was beautiful –Sunny, in the 70’s, and the sweet smells of spring were beginning to perfume the air. I had agreed to go with Suzy to meet her clients who are buying a home in Silver Spring, Maryland. After dutifully admiring the house, (it really was nice and perfect for them), I went outside while they measured each room for their furniture. I sat in a comfortable Adirondack chair and began to enjoy the warmth of the noon sun and the peaceful neighborhood. An occasional neighbor would walk by or a child would ride by on a bike. I was quickly becoming envious of Suzy’s couple finding this quiet Oasis in a city full of sirens, traffic and hustle and bustle.
The couples painter joined me in an adjacent chair, then starting one at a time, and then by two’s more people started coming down the adjacent street and turning onto the street that I faced and proceeded down the street. The difference in the all the new strollers were they were all in what we call back home, “their Sunday finest,” except it was Saturday.
I began to pay more attention and at the same time my new friend, the painter, was explaining to me that all these people walk by every Saturday. I then realized that all the women were in very modest dresses, and the men and boys were all wearing hats or yarmulkes. The number of walkers parading before me increased to whole families of grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, baby strollers and young children.
I was witnessing a sight I had never seen, and only read about occurring on the streets of New York. Several blocks away was an Orthodox Jewish Temple and here were all the members returning from the service foregoing the use of automobiles on the Sabbath and returning to their homes throughout the neighborhood. Many thoughts struck me, I was watching a tradition almost as old as the books of the Bible I am studying at EFM. I was envious of their pace. There was no hurry in their steps as they chatted with their companions. I imagined that the two elderly gentlemen were continuing a debate over the Torah, as they moved slowly down the street with their canes supporting them. I was in no hurry for Suzy and the couple to exit the house because they would be interrupting my personal parade.
Why was I so fascinated? What does this scene have to do with Lenten Meditations? For each of you the answer will be different. On this our Sabbath and for me, I had just had a small insight into what Rabbi Abraham Heschel meant when he said, “ In the tempestuous ocean of time and toil there is an island of stillness where a man may enter a harbor and reclaim his dignity. That island is the seventh day.”
On this Second Sunday in Lent may you all find “an island of stillness.”