As I am writing this several days before Thursday evening, it is possible by the time it is sent much will have changed. Yet I’ve learned when I feel the inspiration to share with you, it is best to just go with it.
So here goes. . .
Last week before Shabbat, the rabbis and lay leaders of Ruach met to decide whether to have services at Ruach or begin virtual services already planned to commence when necessary. The final decision rests with the rabbis since this is a pastoral decision, one of faith guided by information. So Ralph as vp and I as prez also spoke into the decision. Shayna spent considerable time contacting the many synagogues in our area to determine what they were planning to do last Shabbat. It was important to determine community standards. Some were holding services while others were beginning virtual services. We checked in with the Needham local government’s positions re: public gatherings. Tyson the head of our security team shared his in depth research on the subject. We factored in all of that information as applied to our particular Ruach community to determine what would be the best decision for last Shabbat. There were various opinions, changes of thought, but time and prayer brought about the right decision to not have services. Much time, effort, and thought was given to this very weighty resolution. It was definitely not business as usual. Next week at our monthly board meeting our rabbis and lay leaders with the full board’s input will further process how best to lead and take care of our community as new data is made available daily.
Why am I sharing all of this information? I am doing so to reassure you that there is process and rational thinking at this time by those who lead and love you despite the societal atmosphere of high anxiety and fear, the latter truly the strongest weapons of the evil one. Such a reminder of calm planning is not at all intended to minimize the severity of this pandemic, but rather, to provide balance, perspective, and reassuring information that all is not doom and gloom. COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge, one we have not faced in our lifetimes. I am strongly suggesting, however, to stay calm and make wise choices. God is in this and we as your leaders are working hard to care for our community as well as set the right example to benefit our larger community. We are hard at work planning ways to properly respond and help those in need within and outside of our Ruach family. The pandemic spurs us to an all-hands-on-deck mindset and reminds us that everyone in the world is in this together.
I know that not having services at Ruach was the right choice last Shabbat as is planning virtual services and virtual havurot until further notice. Yet even had they occurred, the choice is always yours of whether or not to attend. The success or failure of your success avoiding this pandemic will depend on your own personal choices. Clearly, if you interact in or are part of a more fragile population – immune compromised, over age 60, have an underlying health condition – your choices should be more restricted. Even if you are not in this group, you should be observing the recommendations being provided by the CDC, national, and local governmental agencies. These recommendations are changing daily moving most likely toward in home shelter.
The evidence of pandemic lack of faith is a shocking reminder of how far we have come to think we self determine our lives without the need for God. The balance of making wise choices with God as Supreme Designer is absent from the headlines. The challenge is to act responsibly without setting an example of self interest and fear for our children and others. We create and spread fear and anxiety by succumbing to it.
Ruach’s leadership and volunteers are working hard through phone chains to help others who are at risk, who live alone, are in compromised health, providing an initiative of goodness sparked by the social limitations needed to limit the spread of this disease. It’s still safe to FaceTime, Skype, call, share your love virtually. Bring love into the mix.
I took offense at a comment recently that Sid and I are probably down on the beach not knowing what’s really going on in the world. Quite the contrary. I’m more than plugged in, working harder than ever from down here in Florida. Yet the truth is that this community near my cousin’s house has been blessed to have no cases within a 100 mile radius. And we are a gated community enjoying warm weather and sunshine allowing us outdoor time away from others. Food is on the shelves at the mom and pop grocery store 6 aisles wide, people are still riding their bikes and walking the private community uncrowded beach.
Perhaps this calmness has something to do with the packed-to-capacity church services held in the rec hall through last Sunday. Perhaps serenity comes from regular Bible studies that were held until then as well as from the open discussions about God, and Messianic Judaism, that people here welcomed when we were able to congregate. The feeling in the air is not panic, but rather, acceptance and encouragement to do more to help others during this time of uncertainty.
This pandemic has the potential to not only rob us of our health, but also of our faith. The choices you make for yourself, which affect how you treat others, will shape the outcome of that challenge. I encourage you to be guided by giving to others, especially as you interact with those who do not know the reality of God’s presence rather than to succumb to anxiety and fear. It means taking care of yourselves and your families but being mindful of the needs of others. Prepare responsibly leaving provisions for others. Hoarding food, negative thinking, and emotional isolation are not only detrimental to others, but also, to yourself. Stay in touch by phone or virtually, bringing His light into these challenging times. Redouble your efforts to communicate through FaceTime and phone calls.
These are the times that try men’s, and women’s, souls – how is yours doing?