These are indeed extraordinary times. We are witnessing a massive reorganization of our daily lives. All of us are impacted by COVID-19 and it seems that we'll continue to be impacted for some time to come. A new normal is emerging. As it does, we have some adjusting to do.
One of the most important preventative measures is social distancing — avoiding large crowds and maintaining several metres between people when gathering. In many ways, such a measure is the antithesis of Jewish life, in which relationship and communal closeness is the ideal. Yet as the rabbis understood centuries ago, pikuah nefesh, the preservation of life, pushes aside all other commandments. At this time, as you already know, we are making the necessary decisions to slow the spread of this virus and to keep our community healthy.
As a religious community, we balance the need for social distancing with the very human need for spiritual nearness. In fact, one of the experts we consulted suggested that it is precisely at this moment that a kehillah like ours can safely provide human contact. Beth Tzedec in particular, because of our very large sanctuary and facility, can continue to offer religious services, spiritual support and opportunities for community where we can practice social distance and spiritual nearness. We will be open for Shabbat, holidays and weekly minyan, encouraging people to sit with some space between them and live-streaming many worship opportunities and programs.
We are also planning to offer Healing Services, Coffee Meet-Ups with the Spiritual Leadership Team, weekly text study and more via Zoom and Facebook Live. More information will be shared about these opportunities early next week.
I want to share this beautiful expression of spiritual nearness from Rav Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David-Judea.
“Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”
At this time of crisis, let’s be there for each other. If you know of someone in our community who is homebound, disconnected, ill or lonely, please send that person’s name and contact information to Rosalie Hartenberg Watson and we will reach out to schmooze, to listen, to check in and to make sure they are supported. If social services or other support is needed, we will help ensure they get it.
And if you find yourself at home with some extra time on your hands—no matter your age or situation—and you’d like to perform the mitzvah of calling people to schmooze, listen, check in and make sure they are supported, contact Rosalie and we will give you a list of people who would welcome your call.
At Beth Tzedec, we always know of 80-100 people who would benefit from a call or a visit. And we are thankful to our volunteers who help our Spiritual Leadership Team meet that need. At this moment of crisis, however, we expect the need to increase significantly. With your help, we will be able to help serve every member of our community.
Torah teaches us lo tov heyot adam levado — It is not good for a person to be alone. While we may have to be physically distant at this time, we can work together to be spiritually near.
We are here for each other.
Rabbi Steven Wernick and the Spiritual Leadership Team of Beth Tzedec
P.S. Here is an uplifting video of Rabbi Josh Warshawsky performing “Hame’irah” with Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.