Aloha means hello. Aloha means goodbye. But aloha also means love.
Aloha was the word of the day last Shabbat, as 90 young professionals from Sinai Temple’s Atid community celebrated Shabbat on the island of Maui.
I have observed Shabbat all over the world- from New York to Los Angeles, from Poland and Hungary to Israel. Yet, last week was different, as Rabbi Guzik and I were the rabbis of this immersive experience.
In our parsha, Behar, the Torah juxtaposes the prohibition of idolatry and the sanctity of Shabbat. This odd comparison teaches us a deep lesson-that which is real but invisible is ultimately the greatest reality. That is the definition of aloha-love; invisible, but real.
Our Shabbat services looked quite different in Maui. Shorts, t-shirts and flip flops, the sun setting over the Pacific as we sang lcha dodi, kiddush and Shabbat dinner with our feet in the sand.
As we gathered again on Shabbat morning to recite birkhot hashachar, the morning blessings, we took time to think about which blessing meant the most to us in that moment. A young man raised his hand and explained that weeks ago, we mourned the loss of life in Poway, and months ago in Pittsburgh. And here we were, publicly proclaiming God’s praise, grateful for our Judaism, our Sinai community and Atid. As he spoke, sun bathers walked by, surfers hopped into the water, dolphins jumped out of the ocean, and the sound of waves echoed through our prayers. For this, he said, ozer Yisrael bigvurah, we praise God for strengthening the people Israel with courage.
As we returned to Los Angeles, ready for another week of work, I watched the social media feeds of the participants, most of whom traveled on their own, willing to invest in new relationships and experiences. They returned with a sense of community, a sense of purpose, a sense of sanctity, and a sense of gratitude.
So tonight, let us add one more greeting at our Shabbat table….Shabbat Shaloha…..A Shabbat of welcoming, a Shabbat of love, a Shabbat of peace.