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Rabbi's Message

03/20/2020 04:28:44 PM

Mar20

My dear KHN community,

 

The Book of Exodus closes this week with a double portion, Vayakhel- Pekudai, where in the Israelites have completed the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. We read, “And the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan/Tabernacle. And Moses could not come into the Tent of Meeting, for the cloud abode upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. And when the cloud went up from over the Tabernacle, the Israelites would journey onward in all their journeyings.” (Exodus 40:34-37)

 

There is a cloud preventing us from carrying on with our regular gatherings, preventing us not only from gathering in our physical Mishkan, but from gathering in groups anywhere except for in the virtual world.* I have heard from those who are isolated and anxious, those who are worried about their own health or loved ones. Many are scrambling to find a new balance of full-time work at home while suddenly homeschooling. Many of us are separated from some of our closest family members who are across the county, sealed off in nursing homes or unsafe to visit. We are navigating our home situations. While it can be a blessing for those of us living with others, it can also raise conflicts. Living alone or with others, we may be struggling with loneliness. These are frightening times for millions around the world for the foreseeable future. We fear for those health care workers and emergency workers who are putting their lives on the line to protect us. Many small business owners are terrified for their livelihoods. There will be real costs, both to the economy and of human lives. Psychologist Dr. Betsy Stone said, “We are in the wilderness. We can talk about what wilderness feels like.”

 

And yet there is the sense of the Presence of Adonai in these times as well. I have heard from people who are genuinely relieved to slow down, who are relishing the quiet (those without kids at home!), those who enjoy spending more time with family and on the phone with friends. We are all doing the best we can under these unparalleled (in our lifetime) circumstances.

 

Communities have been responding in creative and life-giving ways. I have been a part of a virtual shiva minyan which connected people in South Africa, Israel, Hungary and the United States. Creativity and compassion are spreading as fast as the coronavirus. Scott and I have been able to spend more quality time together. Many of us are spending less time in cars and more time outdoors. The Earth itself is getting a desperately needed rest.

 

The first part of the double portion is Vayakhel, which in its root has the same Hebrew letters as kehillah, as in Kehilat HaNahar, a community. I have been moved by so many Little Shul folks reaching out to offer help, to teach a course, to help with new technical challenges, to show up in one’s vulnerability and caring. As we read in our Torah portion, each person whose heart moved them and everyone whose spirit urged them brought donations for the Lord’s sanctuary. It takes all of us to help each other--which includes asking for help—at this time, to build our sacred virtual Mishkan. In our finding intimate, sacred moments at this time, we will feel the Presence of the Divine filling our hearts and will feel less alone during these times. Then, when the time comes, and the cloud lifts, we will be able to journey again, gathering in groups, having gleaned some new skills and ways of being and connecting. There may yet be gifts from this difficult time.

 

I want to share this poem by Rabbi Tamara Cohen:

 

And They Assembled

 

And Moses said dayam, enough.

Enough: enough.

 

Stop, withdraw,

bring/do/perform/gather no more.

 

Let the silver glare of a silent sanctuary,

the gold blue of a plane-less sky

the garnet sheen of an empty concert hall

be our sacred offering,

meager gifts of absence from wise and less wise-hearted people.

 

Please God let our ceasing be enough.

Let our hospital beds be enough.

Let our slow awakening to the interconnectedness of every living being be enough

Let a pillar of stillness rest at the entrance to every home and prison.

Let this plague pass over us, enough of us.

Enough.

 

As we call out each time we complete a book of the Torah: "Chazak, Chazak V'Nitchazek" - "Let us be strong, and strengthen each other."

We will be reaching out soon with ways to help within our KHN community and ways in which we can help those outside of our community.

I am available. Please contact me at 215-804-6626 or through email at rabbidianamiller@gmail.com

Sending love and wishes for healing for all of us, and special prayers for those among us who are vulnerable due to age and/or being immune-compromised. A special shout out to those among us on the front lines in medical professions.

Shabbat shalom, Gut Shabbos,

Rabbi Diana

*inspired by a d'var Torah by Rabbi Hannah Dresner

Wed, July 8 2020 16 Tammuz 5780