April 2020 Keeping Connected
These are challenging times for all of us. None of us could have imagined in mid-February that we would so suddenly be plunged into the situation that we are now facing. I know we are concerned about our health and the well-being of loved ones. I know that we are sad about not being able to visit with our family. I know that many of us have suffered losses: missed graduations and proms, abbreviated trips, the inability to go to school or work and so much more. I know that we are feeling uncertain about the economy. We are bound together by the feeling that we are not in control of what is going on.
Clearly we are not the first generation to have faced such challenges, nor are the challenges most of us are facing insurmountable. In some strange way, I personally find it comforting to know this. It gives me a sense of hope that prior generations, who did not have the same scientific knowledge and technology that we have, were able to harness inner-strength, courage and perseverance and not only survive, but oftentimes became stronger. Even more, as a result of the challenges they faced, some people and some societies were able to learn from their experiences and make positive, significant changes for the future. May we be such a generation.
I pray that we will be able to make the changes we need to in our personal and communal lives to insure that we are not caught unprepared for health crises in the future. I pray that we become a more empathetic society; becoming more attuned to the fact that we are all not so different from one another. I pray that as a nation we come to respect the many true heroes in our midst; the low paid caretakers of the elderly, the civil servants who are keeping our trains and buses running so that essential employees can make it to government offices and medical facilities, the people who have worked tirelessly, at risk to themselves to keep our grocery stores stocked, the people who are on the front-lines of taking care of those who are sick. There are many heroes amongst us.
In the Babylonian Talmud (Bava Kamma, 60b), which was written fifteen hundred years ago, we are taught that if there is plague in the city, “gather your feet”. In Talmudic speak this means to limit the time you spend out of the house, as it is stated in the verse: And none of you shall go out of the opening of his house until the morning. The ancient rabbis clearly had a good sense of the health and hygiene guidance we are learning today. Self-quarantine is an important step in keeping one’s family and community safe. Since the saving of a life – Pikuach Nefesh – is the highest of all mitzvot, try to take comfort in knowing that by staying home and limiting contact with others you are doing a significant mitzvah during these difficult days.
Personally, I don’t like the term social distancing. Physical distancing is a term I am more comfortable with because now, more than ever, we need social connections. At the synagogue we are trying as hard as we can to continue providing opportunities to connect through prayer, music, programs, education, support and more. There is a steep learning curve getting all the systems up and ready in such a short period of time, but everyone on our congregation’s staff and our lay leaders are putting in a huge amount of effort to support our members. I am grateful for everyone’s commitment and sense of purpose. Many of you have written to us expressing support for these efforts and we are all also grateful for your caring notes. Many of you are home and facing challenges that you would have never expected; struggling with feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety. I am making a concerted effort to reach out personally to our members in the days ahead. If however, you want to proactively set up a time for a conversation on zoom or a phone call, please, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
In the meanwhile I would like to share this beautiful prayer by Rabbi Naomi Levy.
With prayers of healing, peace and light,
A Prayer of Hope
We are frightened, God, Worried for our loved ones, worried for our world.
Helpless and confused, we turn to You Seeking comfort, faith and hope.
Teach us God, to turn our panic into patience,
And our fear into acts of kindness and support.
Our strong must watch out for our weak,
Our young must take care of our old.
Help each one of us to do our part to halt the spread of this virus
Send strength and courage to the doctors and nurses
In the frontlines of this battle,
Fortify them with the full force of their healing powers.
Send wisdom and insight to the scientists
Working day and night across the world to discover healing treatments.
Bless their efforts, God. Fill our leaders with the wisdom and the courage
To choose wisely and act quickly. Help us, God, to see that we are one world, one people
Who will rise above this pandemic together.
Send us health God, Watch over us, Grace us with Your love,
Bless us with Your healing light. Hear us God, Heal us God, Amen.