Good afternoon, Shabbat Shalom, and chag Kasher v-sam'ech,
A. As we are now into weeks of physical distancing due to Covid-19, and as the news unfolds with huge numbers people who have been infected -- over a million world-wide -- a harsh, sad reality is beginning to sink in.
US: total reported coronavirus cases: 257,773; deaths from coronavirus: 6,586
Israel: 7,030 reported cases, and now 39 reported deaths.
World: 1,056,777 reported cases, and now 55,781 reported deaths.
Perhaps some truly and immediately understood the true impact of the virus, but admittedly I was not one of them, and I was not alone. There are always those who leap to assume or predict the worst, so why leap? But sometimes the dire warnings are accurate, though the truly worst predictions still seem extreme. The predicted unemployment numbers have materialized, with new reports that millions are out of work.
On the other hand, many people are medically untouched by the virus, and our area in Missouri is quite different from, and better than, the experiences of NYC and other parts of the country. Economically, throughout the country many are still working -- some even more than they had been before. St Louis is a mixed bag.
It is another indication of the surreal aspect of the coronavirus -- for some it is harsh and deadly, and healthcare providers and others who protect us face real risks. Others, like many of us, have had their lives altered -- primarily forced to stay inside, but not much more than that. Yet, we are all linked, indeed, globally linked.
I believe in prayer. It is the thousands-years, more than 100 generations tradition of our Jewish culture. Our prayers come in two forms: (a) Formal, composed prayers that focus and elevate our thoughts into refined words, words that bind us to each other and to our past and our future. (b) Spontaneous prayers, sometimes less elegant but highly personal, offered with sincerity.
Pray for ourselves; pray for others. Our Sages teach that when we pray for others, our prayers are more acceptable,
Let our prayers reflect true appreciation for how we have been blessed, in addition to what we fear. Let our prayers reflect genuine appreciation for those who risk their lives, for those who protect us, for those who are doing their best to help, even as they are, as are we, humanly flawed.
B. Pesach -- A congregant sent me the email from the local Orthodox rabbis who have issued a travel ban, forbidding outsiders to travel to St Louis for Pesach, from now on and even on chol ha-mo'ed (the intermediate days). In addition they extend the ban within the area. They demand that people stay home and cancel any Pesach plans.
This Pesach will be different. Most of us will be with far fewer people, perhaps even virtually alone, or connected virtually. It will not be the same. Marian quipped that when there will be just the two of us (second night), she (younger than I), will be asking the 4 questions.
I'd like to think that the terrible virus will help us next year appreciate Pesach even more. I'd like to think that our physical distance from Shabbat and weekday minyanim will result in an attendance surge. I'd hope that the impact would be so strong that it would not easily fade, that synagogue and its religious meaning would be reevaluated and more deeply appreciated.
The Hagaddah includes the teaching that each one of us must see ourselves as if we had been personally redeemed from Egypt. It seems forced that we can feel as if we were in a place and time of thousands of years ago.
But Torah is about meaning. And it is meaningful to push ourselves to times and places in the past and in the future allow ourselves to be transformed, that our souls be nourished. This year Covid-19 has punctured some of our security and prosperity. We are being forced to experience something terrible and see others experiencing even worse effects. It was part of the lesson that the Sages wanted us to learn by identifying with the hardships of the Israelites, the appreciation of God's redemption, and the experience of Torah's transforming, elevating, holy, teachings when we soon came to Mt Sinai.
So we pray. And we hold our seder. And we say, "Next Year in Yerushalayim" -- next year better than this year.
This year -- some suffering, then redemption, then transformation.
C. Reminders -- I will be your agent to sell chametz. I will set Zoom opportunities next week.
Siyyum Bechorim -- Completing Massechet Sotah -- overriding the Fast of the First born -- Wednesday April 8 -- 9:00 AM (link will be sent).
We have had about a half dozen adult students learning wit
h Zoom in three different classes. Please join us. We will continue to send invites.
D. After sending out that "Johns Hopkins" piece, I retracted about an hour later after two medical doctors said there were problems with it. Two other medical doctors wrote that they thought is was fine. A congregant wrote a more detailed explanation that I share with you:
"The article was full of drastic inaccuracies (confusing antibiotics with antibodies, wrong formulation for bleach solution, inadequately researched conclusions and MORE). Original source and some statements factual but amassed together with incorrectly vetted info making it all suspect and confusing."
E. Another congregant has passed this on:
May God bless you, Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a joyous and kosher Pesach