I pray that you and your loved ones are healthy and in a safe space to reside during this period of time as we do our part to “flatten the curve.” My family and I are trying to settle into this reality and are trying our best to remain optimistic during this trying time. It is comforting to see people when we go outside, and I love hearing the birds chirping – reminding us how the natural world continues to show its beauty amidst all of the emotions we are feeling.
My friend, Joe Gindi, reminded me this week of the connection between our current reality and the scene from the Biblical flood. We, like Noah’s family, are traveling in our own arks – minus the animals. I am comforted by the end of the Noah story when God says, “I will never again destroy every living being, as I have done. So long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) Watching the world go on outside my window I’m finding this promise to be comforting. The natural world is still working as it should, even if we are in temporary retreat from a viral storm.
We have received comfort in other ways as well. For instance, we have enjoyed listening to songs connected to our experience. Here are a few examples: I Want to Hold your Hand by the Beatles, Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer, I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor, Lashuv Habayta (Returning Home) by Yishai Ribo (Israeli), and Closing Time by Semisonic. There are many others as well and I’m sure that as a community we can come up with even more. Email me to let me know what you are listening to and to check in!
This week our community came together on Zoom in powerful ways. For example, we supported a congregant in mourning as they sat shiva. In addition to shiva minyanim we also held minyanim on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. I was encouraged to see many of you participating, starting our morning and checking in with one another. We will continue using the minyan app in order to make sure we have at least ten people on Zoom. While we cannot read Torah and recite other prayers like Barchu and Kedusha, our mourners have been saying kaddish with a quorum on Zoom. In addition, we joined together to share jokes, to meditate, and to learn Torah. The experience of being together has helped us all raise up the level of our lives each day. It is what we love about Shaarei Tikvah.
Cantor Cohen and I will once again be leading Kabbalat Shabbat services in our zoom sanctuary. We will be calling pages from the Lev Shalem Siddur. Here is the PDF for you to follow along. I look forward to seeing you as we enter into Shabbat.
This Shabbat we enter into Shabbat Hachodesh, which is the last of four special Shabbatot before Pesach. The parashah this week is Vayakhel/Pekudei, which continues the story of the building of the mishkan, the tabernacle, in the desert. Moses gathers the entire people of Israel to complete the building project. One of the commentators asks why the verse explicitly says that Moses gathered (vayakhel) the people? Why doesn’t the verse just say that he spoke to (vayomer) the people?
The Or HaChayim, Rabbi Hayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar from 18th century Morocco, explains that Moses had to compel the people to gather because they were afraid of him. After spending many days and nights on the mountain in God’s presence, Moses had developed karnei ohr, rays of light, which shone brightly from his face. The people were not eager to assemble together for fear of being blinded or burned by those rays.
Perhaps we are feeling a similar fear to the Israelites. We are afraid to get too close to one another for fear of contracting COVID-19. And that fear is real. At the same time we cannot shelter ourselves so much that we miss being in any kind of contact with the community. Instead we can commit ourselves to connecting with community in new ways so that we can see the divine glow in others. Additionally, we can direct resources to help those in need by supporting charities that continue to do important work during this difficult time.
May we feel strength from one another.