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A RABBINIC MESSAGE FOR THE COVID-19 CRISIS

2020-05-31 10:31:31 AM

May31

I wrote the words below as a draft for my colleagues among the Rabbinical Council of America leadership. We each recorded a paragraph – in our own voice - and we set these words to a slideshow, which we shared with our communities in advance of Shavuot.

A SHAVUOT MESSAGE FOR THE COVID-19 CRISIS

https://youtu.be/HjYyXNOmJls 

We celebrate Matan Torah at a challenging and sombre time in the life of our people and our world. A terrible pandemic threatens all humanity - a disease that can quickly slow breathing and end life. We mourn each neshama that has already been lost.

Medical professionals are risking their own health for the health of others; we are deeply grateful. We carefully observe recommendations from public health officials to stop the spread of this disease. We recognize that pikuach nefesh takes precedence over almost all mitzvot – including saying kaddish and gathering with a minyan in shul – that we all miss so much. As we do our part, we experience anxiety for not just our health, but also for our livelihoods. We feel these worries not just for ourselves, but also for our family, friends and neighbors.

The disease also threatens our sense of safety and security. We feel this keenly as Jews who have been horribly reminded of anti-Semitism in the years before this pandemic. We must stand together as one in the face of those who unfairly single out our people for condemnation. We are so grateful to face this challenge knowing that the state of Israel stands at the forefront of international efforts to overcome this disease.

Yet, the challenge to our safety and security exists within our communities, as well. We face an outbreak of fear and loneliness – and we recognize that this burden is felt uniquely by the stranger, the widow and the orphan – both literally and metaphorically. Loneliness is felt keenly by those who lean upon community for daily or weekly social connection. Fear is felt most intensely by those without any financial cushion.

In this case, community is more important than ever. We cannot permit physical separation to become social isolation. This requires us to not just be empathetic but resourceful in our outreach – socially and financially. As we prepare for Shavuot, let us think about what it means to be k’ish echad b’lev echad. Please call / text / e-mail the people that you know need connection. We all need that connection.

In this eit tzara, we need to remember: As Jews - we have faced times of testing before. We do not face these challenges alone. We remember the grit of our grandparents. We know that our grandchildren will tell stories about how we persevere now. We are linked across generations. We draw strength from a legacy and a destiny of courage and of hope.

Compassion and basic kindness are essential and powerful. They are at the root of tzedek and chesed, which are the bedrock of Avraham’s legacy to us his children and to all the world. Even at necessary social distance, we can find ways to make a difference in the lives of our neighbours, our cities and the countries that we love so much.

Faith exists to serve us at times like this. It is now that we call upon Hashem’s love. We lean on our faith to give us the strength to sanctify God’s name during these moments of opportunity. It is now that we pray that we might be the children, the parents, the spouses, the siblings, the friends, and the co-workers that we know Hashem wants us to be.

In this moment – we – all Hashem’s children - are in this together. As we fight this common threat, we recognize the tzelem elokim - the divine image within every person.

As we recommit ourselves to Hashem’s Torah on Shavuot – let us live lives of meaning and of purpose. May we sanctifying God’s name with our last breath and with our every breath.

Fri, 18 September 2020 29 Elul 5780