Friday, March 27, 2020

It is in Our Own Hands

It is in Our Own Hands

At the beginning of each Shabbat, people gather around the table and raise a glass to say Kiddush, and sanctify the Shabbat.

On the face of it this is a strange ritual. Shabbat arrives whether or not we make Kiddush. Sundown to sundown on the 7th day is Shabbat, with or without our declaration.

And yet Chazal, The rabbis who authored the Mishnah and the Talmud, insisted that we recite Kiddush and declare that we are sanctifying Shabbat.

And I believe what the rabbis meant to convey to us, on this day of rest which is the most passive day of the week, is to never forget that even Shabbat is still in your own hands.

Shabbat may arrive on its own, but the quality of how we experience Shabbat is up to us.

Yes, even Shabbat is in our own hands.

And this lesson is more important today than it ever was before.

We are now confronting the greatest health crisis in the last hundred years, and the greatest economic crisis in the last 90 years.

We are locked into our own homes, unable to enter our offices or visit our friends.

What we must remember is that how we encounter this crisis is in our own hands.

There are of course heroes who are battling on the front lines against this disease. Doctors, nurses, orderlies and hospital staff who are risking their own health, and working double and triple time to battle this disease. Ambulance drivers - I know personally many of the volunteers on Hatzalah, and how this disease has taken a toll on them both medically and personally.

There are healthcare volunteers who've come out of retirement, tens of thousands of them, to man the frontlines in the battle against this disease.

But even those of us who are not on the front lines can take matters into our own hands.

We can call people we know that are sick, vulnerable, lonely or anxious.

We can spend more time FaceTiming with friends and family to make everyone feel less isolated.

Each phone call builds morale and builds community.

And for those who can, find a way to volunteer. Our synagogue has over 70 volunteers who have signed up to be a part of our chesed volunteer committee.

They are making calls to our older members to see how they are doing, they are making purchases and deliveries for those who can't go out. They are sending meals to overworked doctors to give them a break.

One of the chairs of our Chesed volunteer committee told me a powerful anecdote. She was making deliveries to one of our older members. By that point, the doorman had realized that all of these packages were being brought by members of the community. The doorman looked at her and said: "You must be from that Temple. You're doing such a wonderful job taking care of each other".

I thought about what the doorman said, and realized it should not be the work of one committee. We all need to take care of each other. We all need to call the healthcare professionals in our lives, and tell them how much we appreciate what they are doing. We need to spread more love to our family, our friends and our acquaintances. We all need to build the morale of our community so that together we can fight the coronavirus.

That is in our hands, and we must grasp it.

In years to come, when we sit at our seders, the Coronavirus crisis will be a memory.

We will look back at this time, and take pride in what we did for others and what we did to fight this disease.

And hopefully we can look back and say that for us, this was our finest hour.

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