While Standing (On One Foot) Six Feet Apart
April 20, 2020
The pandemic is having an interesting effect on me. Yes my hair is growing too long…but Stella wants to attack me with clippers. We will see how that goes. Yes, I am reading a lot. (I finally am getting close to finishing a fascinating volume on the Laki volcanic eruption in 1783. And I am finding that the bonds between my teenagers in class and me are deeper and strong. So much so that we are all going to learn French together.
How did this happen?
During Teen Academy Jews and Shmooze, we were sharing some thoughts about a rabbi’s thought in the Talmud. The rabbi was Ben Zoma and he said ‘Who is rich? The one content with his lot.’ The teens understood this in a whole new light in light of their isolation during this epidemic. They saw that the one thing we should be content about – despite all the negatives of this pandemic – is that we now have time to do all the things we wanted to do! When have we been given a gift of time like this before?
And so, to fill the time with something constructive, we are all going to do something together: we are going to learn French. Yes, my Jewish teens and I are going to learn French. With all the tools at our disposal and all the time we have, we will all look back on these days and know that we have done something wonderful, fun and unique together and that no matter where life take these young adults, whenever they have a croissant, they will remember Teen Academy, their friends, and Beth Miriam!
Everyday, we leave breadcrumbs of memory with everyone we deal with. During the pandemic, those breadcrumbs seem to be growing into full-size challahs! People are doing and saying some mighty strange things and people are doing some mighty fine things, as we would say in the South.
The ones doing some mighty strange things can be found everywhere. I think the strangest thing is suggesting that the pandemic is over because the curve is going down and then following it up with ‘it wasn’t so bad.’ I suppose that if death and illness didn’t directly affect such people, then it ‘wasn’t so bad.’ It can be infuriating to listen to such people for it seems that all the lessons of civility, shared responsibility and shared public interest, not mention share values and morality, have all been disposed of. To too many people, a haircut is more important than a life, I guess.
And the other side of the breadcrumb coin is exactly the opposite of that. How many sacrifices are so many people making for their fellow? In World War 2, the home front sacrificed with rations of fuel, cheese, nylons, and butter and dozens of other things. They were not necessarily happy about it but they knew that everything they hoarded or cheated on affected both the soldiers on the front and the people back home. Those who are doing all the right things know that the soldiers on the front are the ones saving our lives and they also know that each of us is one of the soldiers. Everything we do or don’t do affects the whole. I admire all those who are thinking outside of themselves and because of them, you and I are still alive.
Like you, I am anxious to get back into the temple to teach, to pray, to counsel. But I am not in a rush so much that I will put myself or others in danger. (In fact, the new guideline is that if there are two or more people in the temple at any given time, masks are required). The Jewish people waited 420 years to get out of slavery. We are a patient people…sometimes. But now being patient is essential. It is truly a matter of life and death – yours and everyone else’s.
Ben Zoma reminded us that we have been given the gift of time. My students wanted to embrace the gift by learning French (I wanted to Russian but I was outvoted!). I thought their idea was delightful and so a community within our community within our community was created. This pandemic has created an opening in time and my students are filling it with creativity, friendship and understanding. They are asking us all the most important question of the day: are we?