While Standing (Six Feet Apart) on One Foot
Shabbat Pesach April 11, 2020
There is not a lot of good to find in the middle of a pandemic. 20,000 dead, 500,000 ill represents a shared grief on a national scale that will be remembered as pivotal moments in most our lives. The devastation around the world has been jarring. It cannot be explained away or made to be less that it is, was or will be. And yet, out of this comes beauty and comfort.
My father in law of blessed memory once made the observation of a correlation between weather and creativity. It was his thesis that only places with tough extremes in weather – very harsh winters and blazing summers – could create world-changing thought. It is only difficult moments that give rise to profound ideas. The great literature and philosophies that changed the way we think come from Germany, France, Scotland. Hawaii and Polynesia – places of relative comfort – have produced little in the way of profound influence on the West. Difficulties and challenges and bitterness seem to be fertile grounds for creativity.
The pandemic is no different. There have been some wonderfully creative essays and stories coming from this challenging moment. Last night at Shabbat services one of our congregants, Irwin Hader, read a beautiful poem written by his neice that captures both the spirit of Shabbat and the present moment. I am happy to share it with you on this Shabbat morning. I hope you find it as meaningful as the congregation did last night:
“Society: What about my plans?!
God: My plans for you are always better than your own. Don’t worry. I’m going to work this all out for your good.
Society: We’re not going to get anything done!
God: That’s the point. You know how you keep spinning your wheels—always working, moving, doing—but never feeling satisfied? I’ve given you permission to stop. I’ve cleared your calendars for you! Your worth isn’t tied to business or accomplishment. All you have to do is take care of each other.
Society: What does this all mean?
God: It means I’m in control. It means you are human and I am God. It means I’ve given you a wonderful opportunity to be the light in a dark world. It means you are going to learn to rely on me.
Society: What are we supposed to do when we can’t leave our homes?
God: Rest. You are always so busy and overwhelmed, crying out to me weary and exhausted. Can’t you use a break from your fast-paced and over-scheduled lives? Go ahead and rest. Pray. Love your families. Be still and spend time with me.
Society: You mean we’re supposed to stay home with our kids all day, every day?
God: Yes. And you’re going to be just fine. This time together is a rare gift. The rush of daily life has come to a halt. Play games. Bake cookies. Work on projects you’ve never had the time for. Teach them kindness and grace. Show them how to endure difficult circumstances and steer them toward me.
Society: We better start hoarding anything we can get our hands on!
God: Prevention, yes. Precaution, yes. Preparedness, yes. But after that, it’s time to put the needs of others before your own. When you see someone in need, help them. Offer up what you have. Do not worry about tomorrow! Haven’t I always taken care of you? Now, go take care of someone else.
Society: Why is this happening?
God: To remind you that I’m in control. To bring your attention back to me. I’m bringing you together as families and neighbors. I’m showing you patience and perseverance. I’m reminding you of your purpose and priorities. Now is the time to learn and teach your children what this life is really about.
Society: We don’t know who to believe.
God: Believe in me. Trust me. Ask me for wisdom and I will surely give it.
Society: We’re scared!
God: I’ve got this and I’m with you.”