We are inundated with valuable information on the Coronavirus. It is a reminder that the miracle of modern medicine sits on the edge of discovery and anticipation. Even the common aspirin was once a hoped for combination of chemicals that would help reduce pain, and otherwise bring comfort. But, before even aspirin, someone had an idea, something they imagined at the laboratory bench, and then took a chance to try something new. Aspirin, now common-place, was once a discovery. Every drug was once the product of our God-given capacity for imagination harnessed by someone in a laboratory hoping to find something that would help others. Hope and imagination are the corner-stones of spiritual capacity. The core of discovery is a leap of faith. Modern medicine brings us all health and healing by the way it harnesses hope, imagination, and leaps of faith.
In leaps of faith, it is as if we are like the Children of Israel. The Haggadah tells us that we are to say that we were once slaves in Egypt and led from there by God’s outstretched arm into freedom. If we really do imagine that we were there, in Egypt, then the truth is that we did not really know the end of our own story. We did not know that a sea would part, that manna would appear, that we would build a golden calf, or covenant with God at the Ten Commandments.
All we did, when we were in Egypt, was say “yes”, into the unknown. The real truth from that story is that no one knows the end of their own story, nor of a loved one’s. Yet we hope, imagine, take leaps of faith. We all come to understand whether in science, a personal decision, or how we get involved in the world, that we do it out of a hope for something we imagine can be better, for which we will take a leap of faith and discover something new. Whether your day involves a paying job or not, from not knowing if a work event will be cancelled to adjusting your daily routine, the unknown itself can yet be a place of discovery: to focus on the task we have, one moment to the next to face hope, to imagine, to discover.
All spiritual life lives in the un-known of what might yet be true. We best build a future when we include each other in our common endeavors with hope, imagination, discovery. Discovery may come in a moment of deep pain, celebration, anxiety, or an unexpected moment. But, as the sun settles into the horizon we can reflect on a day made better by the sensitivity expressed, the smiles we offered, the engagement we entered, the leaps of faith we took and supported.
In a crisis such as this, it is important to support our common health: wash your hands, stay home if you are sick, be sure to see your doctor. And, it is, as well, where we see the spiritual life of a scientist laboring at the microscope to discover what she hopes will be a deeper understanding of how a virus works, what she imagines is how to prevent its spread, and take her leap of faith toward the discovery of treatment, even a vaccine.
We may not know when a cold wind will calm. But we can sew and when it tears, re-sew, the communal fabric into something that warms, that protects, that offers love, that offers care, that is ever expansive enough to hold collective uncertainty, and collective hope, to hold personal and communal anxiety and do what we can to bring discovery to the common good.
Rabbi Eric Weiss, © 2020