We are facing uncharted territory in a world with COVID-19. However, times of uncertainty, crisis and pandemic are not new to our ancestors. Judaism, as we know it today, arose out of a time such as this, after the destruction of the Temple. We are using this time of shelter in place, to more deeply mine the spiritual wisdom of our tradition to live in a time like this. We look as well to our chronically ill and elderly clients, many of whom have deeply hard won skills for life lived at home.
When the Second Temple stood in ancient Jerusalem, it was the core of Jewish communal life. At its destruction, we could no longer gather physically, in one space. It was out of this crisis, that we birthed prayer, text study and acts of loving kindness as the foundation of a Jewish life that could hold us together even as we lived in different places. The texts of the Talmud, rather than a physical building, became our virtual gathering place. This sanctuary of words has kept us in vibrant dialogue with each other, across countless borders, for nearly two thousand years.
In this moment, as we claim this legacy, we once again are in a moment of crisis when we cannot safely gather as a community physically, instead we once again must discover that it is possible to connect with our hearts, minds, and souls.
In this moment, it is time to listen deeply to those who live with chronic illness, to learn from disabled people and our isolated elders. They already have experience with living at home and know about flourishing in stillness rather than action. Many of our clients and chronically ill staff members are already adept at using technology to connect. They have formed interconnected circles of care while housebound, and know how to tend to each other spiritually without physical presence. Even as we contract physically, our need to be close spiritually has never been more obvious. The web of life that connects us all is becoming more visible.
What if we face this moment with spiritual creativity? What if we seek to talk to one another in a way that creates a spiritual care Talmud? What would you say? What questions would you ask? What pains and frustrations would you express? What would be your succor? How would you love? We are responding to this spiritual, as well physical, crisis by beginning to create spiritual care resources and dialogue, which can be accessed from our homes, and can bring resilience to the current situation.
May the wisdom of our ancestors and the love we have for each other help us stay connected, learn from others, and invent new ways to be together.
The rabbis of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center
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