|ו וְיָדַעְתָּ, כִּי לֹא בְצִדְקָתְךָ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה הַזֹּאת--לְרִשְׁתָּהּ: כִּי עַם-קְשֵׁה-עֹרֶף, אָתָּה.||Deut 9:6 Know therefore that it is not for thy righteousness that the LORD thy God giveth thee this good land to possess it; for thou art a stiff-necked people.|
Thursday, August 6, 2020
This Moment, by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman: Now, A Power Outage Too? A Stiff-Necked Perseverance
In This Moment
A July front page of NY Daily News rings even truer now
Now, a Power Outage Too?
What hasn't yet gone wrong in 2020? All that was missing was a massive power outage? Of course! What a perfect time to have a tropical storm, just the trick to smoke us out of our sultry shelters and force us to gather in precisely those public places that we have been trying to avoid. But at least the temple has never lost power in these situations. Until this week.
To quote the old Yiddish saying, "Man plans and God laughs."
On Tuesday, we were among the thousands to lose power in Stamford and it just came back at TBE this morning. Yet, because of the strangeness of this Zoom era, we not only have had online services each day since the storm hit, we've always had at least ten present! That never could have been the case were we doing services exclusively "live" on site. It looks like cancellations due to weather may be a thing of the past. Nothing can shut us down - we're not so powerless as it may seem. Maybe we can get the last laugh on God.
I understand that this thing is not yet over for many of you and I feel your pain. I hope that you have the strength to endure and enough charge in your phone to be reading this. Special thanks to the people at the Ferguson Library for being so hospitable to me yesterday, providing a needed service for the community while maintaining safe distancing practices - and I recommend the library for those looking to charge up and use the internet. Unfortunately, TBE is not able to serve in that capacity this time, as we have so often in the past.
We will get word to you regarding the barbecue and meals-to-go scheduled for tomorrow. Meanwhile, all services will take place on line as scheduled.
As I circumnavigated my way through the long line for coffee at Donuts Delight yesterday, and then headed for the library, I was grateful that the rate of Covid-19 spread in our area has been reduced significantly. It is precisely to survive emergencies like this blackout that we all worked so hard to reduce the virus's spread in the first place. We can't waste that effort on frivolous things, as many have done in other states and in other countries (including in Israel). It only takes a few careless people to reignite community spread. So let's do our best to continue to be careful.
A Stiff Necked Perseverance
In this week's portion, "Ekev," Israel is called a "stiff necked people." It's not a compliment, but given the sharpened awareness of the vulnerability of the neck, a symbolism brought home most recently by the murder of George Floyd, this peculiar metaphor has gained resonance. If the challenges of life are to be met by a stubborn resolve, that gumption originates in the part of the body where we swallow hard, that unguarded spot most vulnerable to the spear's thrust, the batter's foul tip - and the knee's plunge. We all need to develop a thick skin - but more than that, a stiff neck.
I found this journal entry by the musician Stevie Nicks to be inspiring, at a time when so many of us our feeling such deep frustration and impatience. To be a "spiritual warrior" is not to take undue risks. True courage is marked by perseverance and stiff-neckedness. To be a hero, then, to beat this virus, is not to climb a mountain and turn around, as Stevie Nicks might have done one upon a time. It is, in fact, to stay home.
I read this important letter in the Jewish Journal, written by a rabbi from L.A. and speaking to the predicament so many Jews are facing these days: the decision to sustain (or better yet, intensify) their affiliations within the Jewish community. Here's an excerpt: