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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - June 2020
From the Rabbi - June 2020 PDF Print E-mail
“Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone.” ― Joni Mitchell

As we begin to emerge from our isolation it has become clear that this crisis has resulted in much innovation in how to maintain religious life virtually.  That innovation and the creative use of technology, social media etc. will undoubtably change how we interact with religious life for many years to come.  

But it’s also true that our collective experience in the lockdown wilderness has also given us an opportunity to consider how we appreciate things that we have always had but maybe had taken for granted.  As the scope of many of our lives has been narrowed, many of us have realized how much we have not focused enough on the simpler things in life that we tend to take for granted as we rush around in our regular life.  It may not have been our choice but we have all, in one way or another, had to slow down and appreciate many of the simpler joys that we probably didn’t appreciate enough before.  

From a Jewish perspective it has also been a reminder of the depth and breadth of Jewish tradition and wisdom.  Jews all around the world have had to face a calamity like nothing we have ever seen before. And we have all been amazed and comforted by the extent to which we have found that our tradition holds meaning, insight, and inspiration for our age as much every other age.  As we read in the Torah of our ancestors wandering in the wilderness we can learn from their experience of uncertainty and doubt and know that just as they made their way to the promised land, so will we.  And we have learned in our Torah study (over Zoom!), in the stories of the Talmudic sages, what it means to live through difficult times (as many Jews have) and how to act morally and spiritually, maintaining our commitment to doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with G-d, in the midst of the most challenging times and despite great tragedy.  

But perhaps the greatest aspect of “you don't know what you've got till it's gone” for synagogues and churches has been the realization that we really miss being with each other. In the past decades  many temple and churches have noticed a downturn in attendance and involvement in activities. But when we are unable to meet in person we have begun to realize how important community really is. 

As much as we have been able to keep places of worship “open” even while the buildings are closed, we all miss the experience of being able to connect in person.  Engagement in community is a fundamental part of what it means to be Jewish. Virtual community has been a creative and inspirational revelation.  So many have found it wonderful to connect with each other online, especially those who are less able to get to temple or church in the regular course of things.  And much of this will continue in one way or another as we emerge from isolation.  But its also clear how much people yearn for in-person community, how much people feel, now that they have not been able to attend their usual activities in churches and synagogues for a few months, that they feel that loss greatly. As we emerge slowly but surely from our isolation and as we begin to reconnect more and more in person, we can hope that we will not forget how it felt to be unable to to do so. 

No one wanted this unfortunate experience but hopefully it will inspire us to a greater appreciation of the wisdom of our tradition and act as inspiration for us to recommit ourselves to creating real human connection as part of synagogue life and in all aspects of our lives.  

Rabbi Ilan Emanuel



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