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Thoughts on the Pandemic

07/21/2020 02:14:56 PM


by Cantor Dara Rosenblatt

This article was highlighted in the July/August 2020 bulletin.

מִֽן־הַ֭מֵּצַ֥ר קָרָ֣אתִי יָּ֑הּ עָנָ֖נִי בַמֶּרְחָ֣ב יָֽהּ׃   

From a narrow place, I called out to the Infinite,
who answered me through the Divine Expanse.

יְהוָ֣ה לִ֭י לֹ֣א אִירָ֑א מַה־יַּעֲשֶׂ֖ה לִ֣י אָדָֽם׃ 

The Infinite is with me, for I have no fear.   Psalm 118: 5-6

Psalm 118 has resonated with me since the pandemic began. I think often about the power of being in this narrow place. This moment of constriction, restriction, and an opportunity for self reflection and introspection. At this time we have the true power to find the divine within ourselves and in our own lives. 

For me, I have noticed that the greatest challenge is the lack of handshakes, high fives, and hugs. As I worked through this challenge, I found myself yearning for a replacement. There is not an adequate one, but in this moment I have found something that has brought great comfort to me during this time of physical distancing. 

As some of you may remember, last November, a beautiful hand-painted tallit (prayer shawl) was draped over my shoulders, and the whole of my body was covered, as I stood in front of our congregation as you installed me with the holy responsibility to be your cantor. This moment of wrapping in a tallit, symbolized a powerful moment of accepting the role, one of reverence and respect. I remember my installation clearly, with love, deep gratitude, and honor to be blessed with the opportunity to serve this kehilla kedosha, or holy community. 

Every Shabbat in the present day, I am reminded of this moment. I wear the tallit that was placed on me at my installation while sitting at my dining room table, facing my laptop for services. It drapes me in its glory, its beauty, its essence, and connects me to the community that I have grown to love and care for so deeply. When I wrap myself in the tallit each Shabbat morning, I feel comfort, a warm hug, from the kahal (community) that this tallit represents. It is not just a prayer shawl, it is so much more, a means to feel something that I miss dearly.

In a world where we are physically distanced from one another, in a world where we are unable to embrace, I have been able to find this physical touch through the wrapping of a tallit, keeping my community close to me, inherently making me closer to the Infinite. 

Being alone may be overwhelming at times, but I always know my spiritual family is near, and for that I am beyond grateful. 

I want to invite all of you to embrace this moment of opportunity; invite you to find the Divine in this time of physical distancing. Being in our homes allows us to utilize space, time, and ritual objects differently. Bring ritual into your homes, into your heart, and into your soul. Find a comfortable chair that you can sit in and listen in to Shabbat services and only sit in that chair on Shabbat. Bake challah each week with your family and share pictures with your friends. Reach out to create holy encounters, through virtual Shabbat dinners, or a weekly Shabbat Shalom phone call. Take full advantage and embrace the newness and the challenge, and keep an open mind. Take this time to reflect, connect, and be a part of something bigger than yourself. You might surprise yourself and be amazed. 

And, as we continue in the virtual sphere, we know that this is difficult. I, too, have feelings of loss and sadness. We miss each other, we miss our typical routines, and we miss our synagogue community. But even with all of this, we truly hope you will create something meaningful with us. It is in our own power to make it the best it can be and to make the most of this challenging moment. We can do it. We will get through this and we will be stronger for it. 

In this moment of narrowness, let’s remember God is always with us and inspires us to connect. Connection, no matter virtual or physically distanced, is what keeps us close to each other and full of hope. 

If there is anything we can do to be of support to you during this time, let us know. Temple Beth-El, myself and Rabbi Knopf, are here to be present for you, and be with you through this time. We pray to the Infinite that we will make our way out of this narrow place, and look forward to sharing time with you virtually and B’ezrat Hashem, Gd willing, in person soon. 

Tue, September 28 2021 22 Tishrei 5782