Rabbi Nickerson's Shabbat Message - June 17, 2022

  • Clergy
  • Shabbat

Bursting the Bubble

I feel like I’ve been in a bubble for the past couple of years, but luckily, that is about to change - my family and I are going to Israel! I’m leading a trip, alongside our Head of Religious School, Cathy Gordon, for about 50 members of our WBT community. We will be traveling throughout the country for a week and a half, taking in the sights, sounds, tastes, history, diversity, beauty, energy, and power of our incredible Jewish homeland. And towards the end of our experience, from a rooftop overlooking the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, 15 of our community’s young men and women will chant Torah, becoming b’nei mitzvah in an area of the world where our people have had roots for thousands of years. 
On the surface, getting out of the bubble can sometimes require a change in scenery. During the first year of the pandemic, it was simply going to a friend's backyard or taking a road trip to see some of the beauty in our state and country. I’ve driven thousands of miles, but I have yet to fly.  I can’t wait to look out the window from 30,000 feet!  

But this trip is bursting a few other bubbles as well. We will have so many firsts on this adventure. This is the first time since I joined the clergy team at WBT that I’ll be leading a trip for our community. I was supposed to lead a mission to Africa in the winter of 2020 but that didn’t happen. It’s the first time my family is heading overseas all together. This is the first visit to Israel for two of my daughters. It’s the first time I’ll get to share my love of our people’s homeland with my children and see it through their eyes. This will be the first time that many on our trip will visit Israel. To get out of our bubbles, we must do something new; something that expands our experience of the world, or our place in it. I expect to recite the Shehecheyanu prayer many times during this trip.  

Creating a bubble can also be the result of intellectual and/or emotional isolation. We can easily become narrowly focused and lose sight of the broader context of what is going on around us. The word for ‘Egypt’ in Hebrew, Mitzrayim, is connected to the Hebrew word for ‘narrowness.’ Our escape from Egypt was not only an escape from slavery, but also our attempt to escape a narrow mindset. Yes, sometimes it’s easier and it feels safer to remain in our self-made shelters, but as we learn in this week’s Torah portion, even the Israelites need to leave the comfort of their encampment at the base of Mt. Sinai (where they’ve been staying for two years), and venture out into the vast wilderness. It’s in that wilderness where they learn what it will take to survive as a society and religion once they enter the Promised Land.   

I hope you can find a way to burst the bubble for yourself this summer. It may not be an international trip or even an adventure outside of Los Angeles, but there are many ways we can break out of our usual routine and environments - visit a new neighborhood, read a book about a subject you’ve always been interested in, explore a new cuisine or try some new recipes, volunteer your time for a good cause (our Karsh Social Services Center can always use some good volunteers), reconnect with an old friend, spend a night looking up at the stars. We owe it to ourselves.

Have a wonderful start to summer and Shabbat shalom,



Prayers to offer at the Western Wall/Kotel

If you’d like to send me a prayer that you would like me to offer on your behalf at the Western Wall, please e-mail me at rabbijoel@wbtla.org.  


Follow our WBT Israel trip adventures

If you’d like to check out updates and insights from participants on our WBT Israel trip, you can find them here (FYI, we won’t start posting until Sunday or Monday)