This week’s Torah portion teaches וְרָחֲצ֛וּ יְדֵיהֶ֥ם וְרַגְלֵיהֶ֖ם וְלֹ֣א יָמֻ֑תוּ “They shall wash their hands and feet that they may not die.” (Exodus 30:21) Our ancestors, it turns out, knew a thing or two about public health.
As you know, information about COVID-19 has been emerging and changing very rapidly, both globally and locally. We are consulting local health authorities as well as paying attention to state and national guidance. Congregation Berith Sholom will do our part to help “flatten the curve” and slow transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Because our tradition teaches us to mitigate foreseeable harm, and following the recommendation of the Capital District Board of Rabbis, and in light of Governor Cuomo’s statement issued yesterday (https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/during-novel-coronavirus-briefing-governor-cuomo-announces-new-mass-gatherings-regulations), we have decided to move to exclusively remote programs via Zoom. This will give us room to take a breath (but we won’t breathe on each other!) as we continue our ongoing assessment of the changing situation.
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Eternal? Who may stand in God’s holy place? Those with clean hands and a pure heart.” (Psalm 24:3-4) Let us heed our ancestors’ wisdom by following the guidelines of the CDC and other health experts: Wash your hands frequently. Cough into your elbow. Avoid contributing to the “infodemic” of misinformation and rumor. If you’re sick, stay home. If you are in a high-risk group, stay home. Practice social distancing.
But please know that the “social distancing” is only a physical thing. Emotionally and spiritually we are all together, and we are here for one another. If you need an ear or a prayer, please email or call or text Rabbi Gordon. If you have questions, email Rabbi or President Jane Henry.
Judaism calls us to be an Am Kadosh, a holy people. This means, among other things, that we are called to imitate God, Who is the source of compassion and justice. As God loves us and is present with us, we will love one another by standing with eachd other in times of trouble as in times of joy. As God’s partners, we pray for those who are ill, comfort those who have lost loved ones in this terrible crisis, and commit to holding each other through this difficult time. As World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week:
“Let hope be the antidote to fear.
Let solidarity be the antidote to blame.
Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat.”
L’Shalom, Biv’ri’ut/in health,
Rabbi Debora S. Gordon
President Jane Henry