Faces on Faith: The silver lining in a very dark cloud
The staggering number of deaths around the country and the world, and the horrible suffering endured by so many has us reeling.
The world will never be the same.
No one should minimize the human and economic cost of the current pandemic. Loved ones, friends and untold number of others have died and will die. Staggering numbers of people have lost their jobs and means of sustaining themselves and their families. Too many people have died and will die without loved ones nearby to say goodbye or to attend their funerals.
The description of horror and upheaval are endless.
Instead of trying to get back to the old normal, maybe we can embrace the sliver lining in the very dark cloud passing over us and create a new and better normal for ourselves and future generations.
What is that silver lining?
The earth in these short weeks of shutdown has made a remarkable ecological recovery. Water is cleaner, air is purer and the tide flowing toward inevitable environmental destruction has slowed.
What a vital warning this tragic time is reiterating. It is the same warning our Sages issued to us in the name of the Eternal One (Kohelet Rabbah, chapter 7) at the time of creation: “You are in charge of and responsible for this earth. But it is the only one you will get. So preserve and enhance it. Do not pollute or destroy it.”
Can we somehow embrace that valuable lesson before rushing headlong back to doing things exactly as we did before?
And speaking of rushing is there nothing we can learn from the forced “slowing down” that has become the current reality of our lives?
I for one do not wish to return to a normal that fills every waking moment of every single day with responsibilities and obligations that make every pause and every deep breath we allow ourselves a guilty pleasure or a costly luxury.
As Queen Elizabeth so eloquently reminded us in her address to Great Britain and the world, might we embrace the beauty of aloneness and the time for self-reflection and meditation this time allows even after we can return to our previous routines?
Also, might we not – while forced to accept physical distance – give thanks for the virtual capabilities this crisis has enabled us to embrace?
Might the absolute necessity for physical distance inspire us to greater “social closeness” through emails texts, video chats, phone calls and letters?
For example, last year’s Bat Yam Temple of the Islands Seder found more than 150 people straining the fire code limits of The Community House on Sanibel, and it was wonderful to be together. Hopefully, we shall be again next year.
But should we not give thanks that while this year’s Seder found just a few close family members together in a room, our ritual was enjoyed by people not only from as close as Sanibel and Fort Myers but from as far away as Hawaii and Germany as well.
I believe that the secret to Jewish survival, despite all the hardships and tragedy history has imposed on us, is our ability to cling to the hope that things will get better.
The national anthem of Israel, unlike those of many nations, is not a militaristic march, but a soulful melody entitled Ha-Tikvah, “The Hope.”
And so in the presence of the dark cloud hovering over us, I cling to the silver lining of this hope: When the cloud passes over, and it will, may we learn the lessons it teaches and create a calmer gentler world around us and within ourselves.
Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is with the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.