Dear CBI Community,
What a week it has been. Unlike any other we have known. And we know that many more unprecedented weeks are ahead of us.
In this moment we may feel more isolated than ever before. And yet the virus and its spread are a reminder that all of humanity is connected in ways large and small. Even as we take profound steps to curtail our physical connections, our essential connections remain. We are still connected in heart and spirit.
We are only at the beginning of what will be a long journey through the valley of covid-19. We will all need to learn ways to feel, and to strengthen, those connections of heart and spirit.
There’s much we can’t know, including how long this pandemic will last and how it will ultimately impact our community. But here’s something I do know: we are in this together.
Every Shabbat we sing “Mi Chamocha” (to the tune of “The Water is Wide” — you can listen to Mi Chamocha / Water is Wide here). This is the song our ancestors sang after crossing the Sea. Imagine what they had just been through: first the Ten Plagues, then they fled their homes in Egypt, and then the Egyptian army pursued them to the edge of an ocean. Surely some must have despaired. But then someone stepped into the sea — midrash (our interpretive tradition) names him as Nachshon — and following Nachshon, everyone walked through together.
“Mi Chamocha” is a reminder that whatever difficulties we face — whatever armies are pursuing us, whatever seas stand in our way — as Robert Frost wrote, there’s “no way out but through.” Our work in this moment is to resist despair. Instead we are called to cultivate hope, and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And like our spiritual forebears, none of us have to cross the sea alone. We have each other, and we have that Presence that our tradition names as God.
We don’t have to cross this sea alone. May we find comfort in our togetherness — our fundamental spiritual connectedness — even when our bodies are apart.
In the coming days I’ll share some different opportunities for the CBI community to connect via zoom video, including a schedule of rabbinic “drop-in” hours and new online classes. (If you don’t yet have zoom, I hope you will download the app for your computer, tablet, and/or phone.) I hope that these offerings will help us feel connected as a community — we need that now more than ever.
Meanwhile, I urge all of us to reach out to each other: via email, via phone, via Facetime, in whatever ways we can. “Social distancing” means we need to keep our physical distance, but we don’t need to keep emotional distance. Consider lighting Shabbat candles tonight with a friend or family member, even if it’s “just” over the phone or video. (Here are resources for celebrating Shabbat at home.) Or email a friend to set up a coffee date over phone or video — or even do so with someone who isn’t yet a friend but might become so…
Tradition says that on Shabbat an ‘extra soul’ descends and enlivens us. And this particular Hebrew word for soul, neshamah, is related to a word for breath, neshimah. May Shabbat’s extra soul give us extra spaciousness, extra en-soul-ment, extra breath in these time when panic may be shortening our breath and constraining our spirit. May the light of our Shabbat candles connect us with the light of creation, the light of revelation, and most especially the light of hope. And may we feel our connectedness with each other, deeply — so that even as we are solitary in our houses, we can know that we are not alone.
Holding all of you in my prayers and in my heart this week and always —