Dear WJC Family,
It is so good to be back here at WJC in our “new normal.” This new normal includes a plethora of protocols, rules, and guidelines for doing everything from coming into the office to attending services. That’s actually not such a bad thing though. It’s nice coming to the office every day without having to drey on (spin round and round and round like a dreydel…) the decision as we did in the spring when it was a near-constant set of questions of how to do things. The guidelines actually bring relief!
This week’s parsha, Eikev, starts with the offer of a choice – if we obey God’s rules carefully God will bless us and our children with upholding the covenant made with our ancestors, fertile herds and harvests, no sickness and no fear. The choice is so simple that it seems almost silly – is that even a choice? But we all know the world doesn’t work quite that way – just doing mitzvot does not guarantee prosperity any more than neglecting them brings tragedy.
I think what the opening of the portion is actually trying to remind us is that there are no simple choices, no easy decisions. It is a reality that has become abundantly clear during this pandemic (as was eloquently pointed out to me by Ruth Obernbreit Glass during a class in early May). Choices that used to be obvious now call for seemingly endless consideration and emotional investment – should I visit my parents or my grandkids, should I go to work, should we eat at restaurants, indoors? outdoors? order in? and on and on. It’s exhausting! The Torah gives us clear rules for making decisions and that makes life easier – it is itself a blessing.
This is also part of why we are so grateful to the dedicated healthcare workers of our Covid-19 Task Force. When we set rules and protocols, decision-making about openings and safety is easier. For example, we had one of these difficult decisions to make after Tropical Storm Isaias came smashing through. Normally we would have invited folks without power to come use our building without a second thought – but in the world of the pandemic, nothing is simple. In the end, with protocols instituted by the Covid-19 Taskforce, we opened up to our people in need and I am so glad we have been able to help (photos below). Again though, something that shouldn’t have required a second thought required a second, third, and fourth one! When doing the right thing isn’t so simple anymore, guidance from experts—from the Torah to healthcare workers—makes all the difference.
We have also experienced the difficulty of decision-making as we have been preparing for the High Holidays. Over the next few weeks, you will be getting a raft of information about our High Holiday services. The High Holiday Task Force has done a truly incredible job developing different options for people to connect, even when many of us will not be able to be in the same place physically. Please read all the material carefully and reply (as many experiences will require pre-registration). Being able to offer options is nice, I know, but it will also force all of us to make decisions about where we will be comfortable and what will be spiritually meaningful for us. After the information starts coming if you need guidance in making any of these decisions, I am happy to talk through the options with you to help you determine what works best for you. Choices are great, but these days they can also be a burden – we get it. With a little attention and intention though, I feel confident that this will be a very meaningful holiday season indeed.
Rabbi Dalton, Cantor Goldberg, and I are looking forward to sharing a beautiful Shabbat with you. Tonight at 5:45pm we are looking forward to having the cantor back to lead Shabbat services with the guitar, voice, and ruach (spirit) we’ve been missing (mazal tov again to the cantor and Rabbi Shoshie on the birth of their new son Akiva).
Then in the morning, we will be live again from the sanctuary for services. Our full service with a minyan will begin with the Torah service at 10:00am. We will be celebrating a bar mitzvah, so it should be a simchadik morning in shul. For those of you who are interested, from 9:00-9:45 I will be alone in the sanctuary praying the morning’s Preliminary and Shacharit services. We will not be doing kaddishes or other things that require a minyan, however, the familiar tunes and prayers will all be used. I hope you’ll join us. As Shabbat ends we will make Havdalah together at 8:50pm (please note the time changes for this as daylight gets shorter)
One last note – due to so many people being without power or internet we have postponed my virtual conversation with HUC cantorial student David Fair one week to Sunday, August 16. It should be a very interesting discussion about common experiences of Jews of Color in our synagogues and one Jewish perspective on the current discussion of race and equality – but more on that next week.
See you in shul or online!