Rabbi Daniel Shwartz tells a story of an experiment he did in his community. He brought in an enormous piece of white paper and in the corner was a small black dot. He then asked a room full of people what they saw. And every single one of them said: “I see a black dot.” He responded to them: “this piece of white paper is big enough to hold the ten commandments, the bill of rights, the declaration of independence and more, yet none of you saw that, instead you focused on the tiny, black dot, the one small imperfection and that is where your attention is drawn, not to the potential and the possibilities of the white space”.
How often do we do that in our lives and our relationships? We see the black dot and we focus on that rather than the abundance of good and blessings, the possibilities of the white space. This Shabbat Shuvah, this Shabbat of returning, we are called upon to look at both the black dot and the white space. To consider the year which has passed and take the time to acknowledge the moments where we placed a black dot on our white space. None of us is perfect, we have all made mistakes and now is the time in our calendar when we are called upon to consider how we have moved from the path, the ways we have strayed, so that we can wipe the slate clean and move forward to a year filled with hope and blessings. It is not easy and that is why this Shabbat, the ten days of repentance and Yom Kippur follow Rosh Hashana. It would seem to make more sense the other way around: first we look at our flaws and do the difficult work of repentance and then we celebrate with Rosh Hashana. But our tradition is wise and realized that approach could lead to us looking only at the black dots and forgetting the white spaces. So instead, we first celebrate the goodness and blessings of the world, the joy and wonder; and then we are ready to look at the times we made mistakes, when we did not get it right. In order to do that, and to ensure we see both the blessings and the difficulties, we need time, contemplation and introspection, all of which are a part of these ten days of reflection.
But we are offered this opportunity every single week: the chance to pause, step back from the canvas of our lives and look at the whole painting; not to see only the problems and challenges, the black dots, but also the possibilities and potential, the blessings of the white space. This opportunity is called Shabbat. Each week we are offered an incredible gift: the chance to take stock, to reflect and to dream a future for ourselves and our world. But we need space and time to do that. We need to step out of the daily grind of work, pressures, decisions and routines, and to float for a few moments on a sea of calm, contemplating the big questions and re-imagining our lives and all its possibilities. Shabbat is a time for dreaming – for seeing – not the stains and flaws in ourselves and our world, but rather finding the beauty and the blessings; imagining what we could paint on the white spaces of the canvas of our lives, and gaining the strength and power to take those dreamings with us into the week to come, creating the future we wish to see, bringing those dreams into reality. That is the power of the Shabbat.
This Shabbat do something different, to take the time to reflect, to connect with your inner soul, to dream about the possibilities for ourselves and our world, and create a sacred island in time where we can look at the white space and imagine what the painting of our lives can be. Then return to the week refreshed, energized and ready to make dreams into reality. And we will do it together. So join with us, pledge to celebrate that Shabbat in a way which is meaningful and dream beautiful dreams with us.
May we all be inscribed for a year of goodness and blessing