One group that has embraced the virtual possibilities for faith is Lab/Shul, which describes itself as an “everybody-friendly, artist-driven, God-optional, pop up community for sacred Jewish gatherings in New York City.”

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Lab/Shul had regularly organized robust in-person community dinners. But since March, the group has moved its weekly gatherings online, in a format called ShaBasics, stripped down to the fundamentals of bread, wine, candles and a blessing.

“What the Sabbath is about is an invitation to tap into the sacred specialness of life,” Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, who leads Lab/Shul, said. “It helps us transcend the anxiety of the every day.”

The irony of gathering online for the Sabbath is that the weekly holiday is often seen as a time to unplug from screens, not reattach ourselves to them.

But as much of the world moves work, school or social events onto virtual meetups, merging the sacred with the virtual is the only way we can make it through this global crisis.

“The Sabbath is the weekly opportunity to breathe whether you believe in God or not,” Lau-Lavie said.

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