To the best of my knowledge, there are no Jews in St. Lucia. My wife spotted a man wearing a large, rather ostentatious gold necklace with a Star of David embedded in the middle; but we learned later that the Magen David is the emblem of Freemasons on the island. As we were leaving our hotel one day, looking out the window I caught sight of something most peculiar; a native St. Lucian, bareheaded yet hanging from his waist were fringes at each corner with a blue thread running along each fringe. Were these “ztitzit?” Did this man wear the fringes enjoined by the Torah to each Jew? Had I stumbled upon a “landsman,”
A fellow Jew in this remote corner of the Caribbean? The opportunity to investigate slipped away as quickly as our bus moved along the road with increased speed.
Our vacation was designed to provide us with an opportunity to, in my wife’s terminology, “empty our heads!” And we succeeded.
Shabbat arrived. We ushered in the day into our hotel room privately and quietly. The next morning I recited the Shabbat prayers privately, chanting the Torah reading and Haftarah quietly from a Tanach-Bible.
While others boarded buses to make excursions into the island, we remained behind to celebrate Shabbat. We found ourselves floating on rubber rafts in the beautiful hotel swimming pool. As we aimlessly drifted in the water, my wife and I discussed the Torah reading of that Shabbat. Our “heads” were indeed emptying, as they should on the Sabbath. Our hearts however were full. Our thoughts and feelings about the Torah’s wisdom flowed over our minds. We had achieved a wonderful sense of relaxation and serenity, without synagogue or formal community prayer.
My wife returned to our deck chairs while I remained afloat on my back. I was buoyed by the calm waters of the pool, waters that rocked me gently as a baby in a crib. Aside from the feeling of utter restfulness I was struck by the more spiritual symbolism of this experience as Sabbath’s essence and core meaning. For those fleeting yet fantastic few moments I was assured of being borne by nature’s gift of water as I allowed my self to surrender to the embrace of Shabbat’s holiness. I did nothing- “You shall do no work whatever!” I simply lay on my back and felt the subtle yet real support of God’s hand in the flowing ripples of the bed of water under my body. The Shabbat took on the realization of ultimate spiritual reality as I declared to myself in unspoken words that we are all held in the gentle, loving yet firm grasp of life’s divinity and wonder.
I am utterly grateful for that moment and the recognition that the magic of Shabbat can be recognized anywhere in the glorious world created by God, a creation that we are most mindful of on the Sabbath day- “For in six days He created the heavens and the earth and on the seventh He rested.”