Saturday, March 14, 2020

Coronavirus Update, March 14

From the Rabbi's Bunker

Shavua Tov (a good and healthy week)!

As we adjust to our swiftly changing world, please be reminded from now until at least the end of March, no services or classes will be held at Temple Beth El.  So no morning minyan on Sunday (tomorrow) and beyond.  

I'll be writing to you often over the coming weeks.  Each email is an invitation to click on "reply," especially, though not exclusively, if you are feeling a little down, or if you are alone, or worried, or just stir crazy.

Later this week, I'll pass along instructions to tap into online classes and Friday night services (where yahrzeit lists will be read).  Beth Styles and I are preparing a musical mini-service for this Friday evening at 6, which you will be able to access in real-time online.  Those with yahrzeits or who otherwise wish to remember loved ones, please be in touch with me and we'll discuss how we can do that. You can also Download our Prayer in Place of a Mourner's Kaddish  (when a minyan cannot gather). And if you know of anyone who is ill (and it is inevitable that we will), please let me know via email.  Email is the best way to reach me during this situation.

We had over 200 people watching all or part of our services online this Shabbat, proving that communal togetherness can be achieved in different ways.

On Friday night in my sermon I made reference to an obscure folk custom that has been employed by Jewish communities threatened by plague, including the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu epidemic.  These "plague weddings" or "black weddings" were aimed at demonstrate to God the innate kindness of the Jewish community, proving their worthiness for survival.  Strange and superstitious for sure, but a far better response to calamity than the kind of nativism, xenophobia and blame-game that we see around us today.  You can read more about this and other customs at and also at

Don't forget the food drive that we will have on Sunday.  Just drop off your non perishable food items at TBE, where a van will be parked outside (no need to bring anything into the building).  We don't do this to convince God that we deserve to survive, but so that people who are hungry can put food on their tables during a time of severe shortage.

I read a very special prayer during Friday's service, written by a Unitarian minister, which I share with you now in the hopes that you will find is an inspirational as I did.

"Pandemic" by Lynn Ungar
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath-
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another's hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Finally, to lighten things up a bit, here are some Jewish coronavirus memes from the Forward:

The chief rabbi of Israel has advised against kissing mezuzot, 
but people are finding ways to continue the custom.
Stay well

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman 

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