Monday, March 30, 2020

From the Rabbi's Bunker: March 31 - Exodus or Eisodus? Joy Comes With the Morning

From the Rabbi's Bunker

TBE fifth and sixth graders at their New Normal Hebrew School session on Sun.


The Corona Virus is a serious matter
but sometimes humor can relieve the stress....
here are a few light touches. 


And here's the one that's been

And this Steve Lander special...

"I was on a long line at 7:45 am today at the grocery store that opened at 8 for seniors only. A young man came from the parking lot and tried to cut in at the front of the line, but an old lady beat him back into the parking lot with her cane. He returned and tried to cut in again but an old man punched him in the gut, then kicked him to the ground and rolled him away. As he approached the line for the 3rd time he said, "If you don't let me unlock the door, you'll never get in there."


Good Morning - Boker Tov  בקר טוב

I don't mean to turn this into a laugh track, as this situation could not be more serious.  But part of what we all need to be doing right now is lifting one everyone's spirits.  Morale is so important right now, on the home front.

Thank you to the 30 or so who made up our mincha minyan yesterday. It was nice to come together, even if only for a brief time. The tinny, electro-pop sound of the davening sounded strangely shtiebel-esque and authentic through the Zoom connection. We will be doing these makeshift minyans upon request at 1 PM on weekdays. After Passover, we can determine whether to make them a daily occurrence.
There will be a guaranteed minyan on Thursday at 1, which is the yahrzeit of Frank Rosner. Meeting ID: 874 975 176
This (TUESDAY) afternoon at 5 PM I'll be teaching the next session of our "Beyond Dispute" series: What Defines our Relationship with God? Love vs Law." It gets into some of the Christianity / Judaism "religion of law vs religion of love" stuff that often is discussed especially at this time of year. Here's the Zoom link: Meeting ID: 313 166 042. +1 646 558 8656 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 (US)

Now for a little more jazz in our lives, how about this rooftop concert in Tel Aviv, held last week...

Tel Aviv residents stuck at home under quarantine, danced to the tunes of saxophonist Yarden Klayman
Tel Aviv residents stuck at home under quarantine, danced to the tunes of saxophonist Yarden Klayman
Exodus or Eisodus?


Why is this Passover different from all others?  We'll be asking that question a lot over the coming days.  Irony abounds: for one thing, we are dealing with an honest to goodness plague. For another, just like our ancestors in Egypt, we are seeking protection indoors, though rather than smearing lamb's blood on the lintels, we are smearing sanitizing gel everywhere. And like our huddled ancestors on that fateful, horrible "Night of Watching" described in Exodus 12, we are trying to strengthen our resolve while listening to the cries of our suffering neighbors.

The Exodus celebrates what happened on the morning, when the legions of Israelites, 600,000 strong, embarked on their epic journey of liberation.  But first came the Eisodus, the night before, when they huddled in their homes and ate bitter fruits of slavery and the bread of dread, the maror and matzah.  

In Greek, exodus is the word for exit.  Eisodus is the word for entrance.  Next year in Jerusalem, God willing, but this year we're not even going to make it across state lines (especially if headed to Rhode Island).  This year in the basement, next year at Stop and Shop, without body armor.  This year, we socially distance to keep the Angel of Death at bay, and next year, next year, maybe we'll have a Seder that isn't virtual.  But this year is still a year, and all years have Passover, so what we need to figure out this year is how to find the path to liberation while staying put.


This year we will mark with ritual lathering of the hands our exodus from the world rather than into it.  This year, the hametz that we will clean from our homes is microbial rather than fermented.  While seeking to wipe out all traces of the virus, we'll clean up a few crumbs along the way.  

The word for Egypt, Mitzrayim, literally means "narrow straits."  The path to freedom is narrow indeed.  As Lesli Koppelman Ross writes, "When God took us out of Mitzrayim, God extricated us from the place of constricted opportunities, tight control, and narrow-mindedness, where movement was severely limited."

Movement has never been more limited for more people than it is right now.  And when it is all over - as it will be, perhaps somewhere around Shavuot - maybe we'll have discovered that the journey to liberation is an Eisodus after all.  And ultimately, as we read in Psalm 30, "Weeping my endure through the night, but joy comes in the morning."


Recommended Reading and Watching

Let's start with a superb Twitter thread from a colleague....

Learn About Israel's History

Got some time on your hands?  Dive into this classic series on the history of Zionism and Israel: Pillar of Fire - Tekuma.  You can find the whole series here.

Pillar of Fire (עמוד האש) is a mini series documentary of the IBA, produced by Yaakov Eisenmann and edited by Yigal Loussin and presents the History and narrative of Zionism from the late 19th century until the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Pillar of Fire focuses on the History of Zionism, beginning in 1896, in the wake of Theodor Herzl's revival of the concept of Jewish nationalism and continues to follow the Jewish People in the 20th century, the early stages of Zionism, followed by the waves of Aliyah prior to the founding of Israel, the Revival of the Hebrew language, the Ottoman Empire's rule in over the Land of Israel, the British Mandate, Anti-Semitism in Europe, the rise of Nazism and The Holocaust, the history of the Yishuv, the Jewish struggle for independence, and ends in 1948, with the Israeli Declaration of Independence.  Tekuma picks up the story from there.

You can also take a look at Marc Schulman's much  20 part series-in-progress on the history of Zionism and Israel. Part 13 just came out, on the 1973 war.  These brief videos are excellent teaching tools.  Check this one out.

History of Israel-Part 13 : The Yom Kippur War
History of Israel-Part 13 : The Yom Kippur War

Jewish struggle for independence, and ends in 1948, with the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
There's Bad Dudes Out There

ADL: What is Zoombombing and Who is Behind it?
 - Anti-Semites hacking into Jewish Zoom events.
Some Megachurches Are Still Packing In Crowds (Bloomberg) Congregants of megachurches in Louisiana, Ohio and Florida attended services in defiance of social distancing orders on Sunday morning, even as politicians and doctors took to weekly news shows to warn of coronavirus's spread in the U.S.

But also lots of Jewish organizations doing a lot of good...

Schoke Jewish Family Service - providing Passover meals, support groups and other assistance during this crisis.

And what's happening in Israel now?
Win-win coalition? Both Netanyahu and Gantz can make case for victory in talks(Times of Israel). Interesting and thorough analysis of a perplexing, if not shocking turn of events in Israeli politics.
State-mandated cremation is a posthumous 'mitzvah,' says leading Orthodox rabbi(Times of Israel). Astounding to have Orthodox authorities OK-ing cremation and Zoom Seders. Have we landed on another planet? Nope - because as intransigent as fundamentalist Jews may often be, they never stray from what is most fundamentally Jewish - the preservation of life. And Jews have historically been the most adaptable people on earth. Disruption is our middle name.
And here?
The coronavirus pandemic will not lead to a sudden, End of the World explosion. Rather, we are struggling to deal with a prolonged plunge into the dark unknown, a state of limbo with no finish line in sight. What's similar, though, is a humbling sense that our fate is out of our control. And as I hunker down at home now, still reeling from the impact of a society - a world - turned upside down within the last few weeks and trying to imagine a return to normalcy, I recall those long ago feelings of fear and confusion from the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War.
One of the greatest challenges in free societies is to maintain a balance between the 'I' of self-interest and the 'we' of the common good. We must be able to compete but also to co-operate. 

What the gift of this unpleasant infection has helped me understand (Washington Post) But joy comes in the morning. Joy comes with the breaking of fevers and easing of fears. Joy comes with the battles bravely won or bravely lost. With the sacrifice of self to the service of others, joy comes. We won't be the same country that awakens from this illness, but I believe we can be a stronger country, with a greater appreciation for the parts we each play in the only community we've got. We've dwelt too long with the dark and fitful shadows of our febrile times. We can rise up from the sickbed and walk into the day.

בָּעֶרֶב, יָלִין בֶּכִי; וְלַבֹּקֶר רִנָּה


Stay well, stay safe...

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Coronavirus Update March 29

From the Rabbi's Bunker

Time to set my eyes beyond the bunker and look at the tremendous love being shared all over this world.  I know this church very well - right at the bottom of College Hill in Providence.  Right now Rhode Island is getting some bad press for keeping out New Yorkers - but look at the website of the First Baptist Church and you'll find this message, along with the quote from Lamentations that appears below it...

As you shelter in place, pray and sing. Pass the peace by connecting with one another by phone, computer and cards. Needs in our community and world continue.... Receive this time of stillness as a form of individual and collective sabbath.
But in my mind I keep returning to something,
something that gives me hope -
that the grace of Adonai is not exhausted,
that God's compassion has not ended.
[On the contrary,] they are new every morning!
How great your faithfulness!
"Adonai is all I have," I say;
"therefore I will put my hope in God.
Lamentations 3:21-24

If you are in need of a lift, this will help
"You Will Be Found" Virtual Choir | DEAR EVAN HANSEN

- Join us at 1 PM for a Healing & Hangout Zoom session with Katie Kaplan and myself, where we'll begin with a few healing prayers, and then time for free flowing.  The Zoom link  is
Meeting ID: 866 408 956 Telephone: (646) 558-8656

- Also note the request for a guaranteed Virtual Minyan for yahrzeit
Monday at 1 PM -

A few photos
Thanks to Kenneth J. Cohen for Friday night screen shots


Today, with our 7th graders:

Our Kiwi friends are back at it, with the goal of putting smiles on the faces of children

Even the corporate world is promoting social distancing
Love conquers all in Fiji

The virus does not play favorites...

How about a Passover Song Mashup for your DIY Seder?

Passover Songs Mashup - Dance Spectacular! - Elliot Dvorin | Key Tov Orchestra - שירי פסח
Passover Songs Mashup - Dance Spectacular! - Elliot Dvorin | Key Tov Orchestra - שירי פסח

Some Recommended Reading

We enjoyed the first two episodes last night on Netflix. Worth watching!
The coronavirus brings out the worst in people -
Alabama's Virus Ventilator Plan Latest to Draw Ire of Disabled (Bloomberg Law) A group of nonprofits advocating for the disabled filed a federal complaint over Alabama's new plan to ration ventilators in the wake of Covid-19. The complaint outlines concerns that the Alabama Department of Public Health's Emergency Operations Plan for addressing ventilator rationing in the event of a health emergency will discriminate against those with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. The groups, including the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and The Arc of the United States, filed the complaint on Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.
This is reprehensible - almost as bad as a leader holding back needed aid to a desperate state until its governor expresses fealty.
- and the best....
8 acts of kindness: Stories of good deeds during a pandemic (The Lily) We hope these will make you smile.
This list is specifically designed to serve freelance artists, and those interested in supporting the independent artist community. This includes, but is not limited to, actors, designers, producers, technicians, stage managers, musicians, composers, choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, craft artists, teaching artists, dancers, writers & playwrights, photographers, etc.
People who are surviving violence in their relationships and families may be experiencing increased isolation and danger caused by social distancing measures during the Coronavirus pandemic. Remember - you are not alone!

Stand Against Hatred - Resources in response to hate and racism directed toward Asian Americans related to the coronavirus or COVID-19.

On Being: A Care Package for Uncertain Times
 A collection of podcasts and poetry for however you're processing this moment.

Writing Time: An American Novelist Confronts the Question of How to Fill the Hours, Fictional and Otherwise - (Gwyneth Kelley, The American Scholar) - "I know that this period of isolation and pandemic has only just begun, and that eventually I will write again. Writing is how I contemplate all my questions about life. It's just that now I mostly contemplate the walls of my own apartment, and the only questions I have are: Is someone in my family going to die? How many people are going to lose their jobs? When will I be able to hang out in a crowd? Suddenly the things I used to write about no longer seem important or even real. The world is changed, I am changed, and I do not yet know how that will express itself in my work."

Partners in Torah: Personalized Jewish Learning Learn any Jewish topic with a mentor of your choice.

And if you are for some reason in a hurry......

All Jewish History in Under 18 Minutes
All Jewish History in Under 18 Minutes

How to Spend the Time (Dahlia Lithwick - Slate) It is better to be grateful than to pronounce yourself lucky, and other lessons from quarantine.
"I really never quite liked it when Michelle Obama reminded us that when they go low, we have to go high. I guess because I am so unutterably tired of being punched in the knees. But now is the time to learn about going as high as you can, because that is the hardest thing when you're terrified. Today we will learn that someone else is sick and someone died, and we will want to spend time curled up in bed crying. And that is an excellent place to be. And then, as we're seeing in this slow-roll Viktor Frankl human makeover, we will find purpose, find something to do, some cart to lash our ox to, even if we are not on the streets saving lives. I am spending my time trying to be the shadows and the echoes of the people I see spending their time with purpose and courage. And that's all I have time for just now."

In the midst of these challenging and uncertain times we hope that you are staying safe and wish you continued strength and good health. During these difficult days, where we find ourselves in an unfamiliar new reality commanded by social distancing and isolation, we invite you to take this opportunity to explore Yad Vashem's online resources, including video content, free online courses and online exhibitions. These resources utilize materials from our extensive archives and resources, and the latest in Holocaust research and pedagogy aimed at helping you broaden your knowledge on the subject, with the flexibility offered by online study. 
What is the Holocaust Part 1/7: Introduction
What is the Holocaust Part 1/7: Introduction

Stay well and Stay Home - and see you at 1 PM

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman