Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Friday, March 12, 2021
In This Moment for March 12: One Year In....
In This Moment
"That'll be a total of Four Zuzim, Abba!"
Two newborn kids, a sign of the season - and Pesach - from the Irish Times
This weekend is Shabbat Ha-Hodesh, the Shabbat before the beginning of the month of Nisan, the original new year, the month of spring and Passover, As we mark the end of the Year of Covid, before we rush headlong (yet cautiously) into our post-plague "Plegxit," we should look back and take stock, as we await a return to normalcy, whatever that is. Here are three suggestions:
#1) The TBE Covid Memory Project
A congregant has suggested an excellent way of capturing this moment in time before it has receded into memory. We would like to create a collection of personal essays about living with Covid – 19 for the last year.
We invite you to reflect on what has inspired you, what has saved you, what has given you hope, what has been lost. What would you like to remember and record about these many months. What wisdom have you gained? What survival techniques brought you to the other side of these dark days. What gave you hope? I know that our daily minyan, for instance, has brought huge comfort to many. What did zoom services mean to you during this year?
As a brief example, Marsha Matthews wrote of our daily Zoom minyan, "It helps to anchor my day...I certainly don’t have “big”plans these days, but I often make my little plans around the minyan... I enjoyed meeting the minyan “regulars”, most of whom were unknown to me, and about whom I now know a little bit...It feels good to be part of the community...It helps me feel linked to my Judaism."
We will assemble this collection of writings and share them with our members (and we'll assume that if you send it in you are OK with publication).
Please share your thoughts. Kids are invited to take part in this as well. Submissions should be 200-500 words.
Here's another way to look back...
#2) "Oh the Places We've been!"
One year ago, when we took our services out of the building and onto Zoom, I decided that a housebound congregation needed ways to expand its horizons, to take flights of fancy when physical travel was impossible.
So each Shabbat - and at other times too - I've used the Zoom virtual background feature to take us to sacred places around the world. At a time when everyone was cooped up in quarantine, when even the New York Times' travel section was renamed "At Home," we needed that vehicle of escape. I know I did.
Visiting these holy places took some of the humdrum out of our day and added a sense of wonder. It also added a bit of intrigue to the service, causing people to ask, "Where in the world will the rabbi be today?" Or maybe you didn't. But for me, these fanciful flights helped me forge a new intentionality (kavvanah) as I prepared for each service. Without leaving my home, I was able to visit more places than Waldo or Carmen Sandiego. And since almost all of these photos were taken by me, each Shabbat I was whisked back to a key moment of my own spiritual growth. How better to celebrate Shavuot than to be on Mount Sinai, next to myself as a teenager. Or on Hanukkah, to be standing before the ancient temple model in Jerusalem. Or on Inauguration weekend, to be socially distant from Bernie Sanders, to celebrate our high school graduates with a trip to Hogwarts (and Rydell High too).
We communed with a cow in Varanasi, India's holiest city, on Shabbat Parah (the Shabbat of the Cow), we mourned George Floyd's murder at the Lincoln Memorial, and commemorated D-Day at the American Cemetery in Normandy and Pride Shabbat at the Stonewall Inn. We lifted our eyes to a sunrise in Nepal, and marveled at Victoria Falls; we celebrated Israel's birthday in Latrun and Yom Hashoah at Auschwitz and Terezin. Through these images, prayer was better able to lift us out of our cabin fever and send our souls soaring.
I can't wait to see more people in person - but I must confess, I'm really going to miss the ways Covid forced us to to be more creative in our worship, and we need to incorporate this into our plans as we return to our "new normal."
So there you have it. Two ways we can capture the meaning of this Covid year.
And now, here’s a third way to mark this sacred transition as we begin to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
#3) The Gomel Project
Have you recently been vaccinated or survived a case of Covid? There is a prayer for that. It's typically recited right after coming up to the Torah for an aliyah. You can read about it here.
Here's a how-to video about Gomel
As each of us becomes vaccinated, one at a time, now in growing clusters, some kind of communal moment of thanks is called for. So each week, beginning this Shabbat morning on Zoom, we are going to reserve one aliyah for those who wish to express thanks for having been vaccinated or having survived Covid to do so. And we will join you in being grateful for your health and well-being. So join us for a Gomel moment this Shabbat.
What Awaits Us...
Marc Schulman's Israel Update - "At this point, 90% of those over age 50 have been vaccinated; and we have passed 70% inoculation of the entire adult population. The cumulative effect of our astonishing success getting shots in arms has led to the near disappearance of critically ill patients, requiring hospitalization. On Thursday, the IDF announced that 81% of soldiers are now fully vaccinated, declaring itself the first army in the world to reach herd immunity. Pfizer claimed early Thursday that based on Israeli data, its vaccine is 97% effective in blocking severe illness, and 94% effective in blocking transmission."
Last night in Tel Aviv the bars were filled. This is what the end of Covid looks like... if we will only be very careful for just a few more weeks, we will get there too. Our congregation's - and nation's - goal is that we all get there safely.