Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat B'Shalach / 11 Sh'vat 5775
Exodus 13:17-15:26 | Judges 4:4-5:31

This Shabbat, Laura Miller shares 
Shabbat, or Not?

"How can you be so CALM??" she asked, with a mixture of irritation, puzzlement and relief.  I was sitting in the consultation room of the women's clinic where I work, with a woman brought to me for a psychiatric evaluation by her primary care doctor.  Like most of the women I work with, she was a veteran of the U.S. armed forces.  Her voice and her entire body shook as she recounted gruesome memories of her experiences as a gunner in Iraq. 


As a psychiatrist who has worked with hundreds of traumatized women, it's indeed important to understand the answer to her question.  How DO I feel and convey a sense of calm assurance, while still connecting emotionally to others' pain and fear?  Some of it I can attribute to inheriting my father's demeanor, and some to professional training and experience.  But I know that a great deal of that calmness comes from Shabbat.  Without that weekly spiritual refueling, without pausing in the hectic buzz of everyday life to focus on holiness and joy, I could not do what I do.


Yet here's the problem - it's not fair.  Many of the women veterans I work with never get a break.  Their nightmares and flashbacks don't take vacations.  These women spend every day and every night on orange alert.  Rather than feeling embraced and comforted by a community, they feel distanced, alienated, suspicious, unable to feel safe among others.  Is it right for me to enjoy Shabbat when they can't?  I remember what Bob Marley said after showing up to perform a concert two days after someone tried to kill him: "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?"

It brings to mind a moment in Moss Point, Mississippi, not long after Hurricane Katrina had decimated the town.  A group of us from Beth Emet had gone there to help with repairs.  It was near the end of a week of hauling, scrubbing and painting.  We were standing by the shore, staring at the bare foundation of what had once been someone's home.  We were there to pray.  Several in our group had resented taking time out for prayer, feeling the press of so much to do with so little time.  But as the week passed, the enormity of the task weighed heavily.  People became profoundly discouraged.  Stopping for reflection was essential.  It renewed our spirit and allowed us to continue.


Saturday morning in Evanston.  The startling orange of sunrise over Lake Michigan - controlled fire.  Quiet, empty streets.  An el train passing.   To a veteran, ominous.  To me, full of wonder.  I breathe in the spirit of Shabbat, whisper a prayer of gratitude.


As I speak with the woman in the consultation room, her shaking lessens.  Her voice softens.  Tears long held in well up.  By the end of our talk, she is willing to risk a glimmer of hope. No, it isn't fair that I can experience the peace of Shabbat and she can't.  But it's the only way forward.  It's what keeps me going so I can help her keep going.  In this imperfect world, she and I are doing the best we can.


LAURA MILLER is a Professor of Psychiatry at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine, and Medical Director of Women's Mental Health at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital. She is the author of the novel The Path of the Orphaned Star.
Each Friday during 5775, we will be featuring writings from you, our congregants, sharing reflections on Shabbat. We hope you will be inspired to share your reflections with the community. If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Stacey Zisook Robinson
This Shabbat at Beth Emet

Friday, January 30
6:30 p.m. 
Shabbat Shira with Cantor Arik Luck
Special blessing for Karin and Harvey Kelber for their 50th Wedding Anniversary

Saturday, January 31
9:30 a.m. Kahal Worship in the Weiner Room with Torah Reader Nisan Chavkin and Torah Discussion Leader Shelli Patt

9:30 a.m.  Minyan in Room 208
10:45 a.m. Super Shabbat with Anna and GillianA special Shabbat  program for young children

Gillian Rosenberg and Anna Witcoff, two Beth Emet Bat Mitzvah students will lead a fun morning full of crafts, games, and stories all about Shabbat! (Best for ages 4 - 7)

12:00 p.m. Shabbat Potluck Lunch following Kahal Service and Super Shabbat Program.


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