March 19, 2020///23 Adar 5780
Dear members of our Capital District Jewish Community:
As we approach Shabbat, we wanted to make sure you heard from us with a few more words of encouragement, comfort, and guidance during this difficult time for us all. Since we wrote to you last week, everything about the pandemic and our national response to it has rapidly been transformed. We're proud of how all of us in our part of the wider community -- laity and professional leadership -- have responded to the very serious health challenges before us. With great efficiency, mutual cooperation and patience, we've moved so much of our synagogues' and agencies' programs, worship services, and pastoral presences on-line through the remarkable technology available. We should be clear that use of this technology is temporary. Judaism and Jewish community are about flesh and blood human beings relating to each other in real time and space. Still, it is truly a blessing for all of us that God has given us the intelligence to create, disseminate, and use all of these tools that are keeping us connected.
Many thanks to our colleague, Rabbi Gordon, for providing us with the following Jewish perspectives on some of the most basic and essential aspects of self-care and health during COVId-19. We provide you with these reminders so that we can all remain healthy:
• This is a time to shelter in place, a phrase which can invoke the traditional image of being tachat kanfey haSchechinah — sheltered beneath the wings of God's Presence.
• Our tradition teaches us to mitigate foreseeable harm, and current public health recommendations tell us that now is the time to act, to do our part to attempt to "flatten the curve" by slowing transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. Eit laasot la-Shem, "Now is the time to act, for God’s sake and for ours." Or, perhaps we can read this teaching as "Now is the time to act, for God’s sake!" This is not time for business as usual but for drastic and potentially life-saving change.
• "Who may ascend the mountain of the Eternal? Who may stand in God’s holy place? Those with clean hands and a pure heart.” (Psalm 24:3-4) Let's heed our ancestors' wisdom by following the guidelines of the CDC and other health experts: Stay home as much as possible, whether you are sick or appear healthy. When you must go out, wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. Cough into your elbow, or into a tissue and throw it away immediately. Practice social distancing. Avoid contributing to the “infodemic” of misinformation and rumor. And please know that the “social distancing” is only a physical thing. Emotionally and spiritually we are all together, and we are here for one another. If you need an ear or a prayer, please know that we, your rabbis and leaders, are here for you.
• One more reminder: shmirat ha-nefesh u-shmirat haguf (protecting the health of one's soul and body) are absolute imperatives in Judaism. Let's all do our level best to eat healthy, get at least some kind of exercise, read, listen to music and laugh daily , and get off of social media etc. early enough at night to have a fighting chance of sleeping adequately. We cannot help ourselves or each other fight off Corona if our bodies and minds are less than healthy.
Only blessings of Shabbat peace for all of us. We'll check in with you next week. Zai gezunt! Be healthy!
Your Capital District Board of Rabbis.