A broad consensus has emerged to practice social distancing to slow the spread of corona virus. Many gatherings large and small will be cancelled and altered for public health and safety. Jewish law supports actions like these, because the primary mitzvah is "live by them (these laws)." When life is threatened, this mitzvah, to live by them, becomes operational.
This "social (physical) distancing" will shift our understanding of community. Social cohesion is a factor in our well-being. Social cohesion, can in fact be life-giving.
How will we do this?
Our lay and professional leadership will spend the next days considering how to gather safely, how to bring teaching, counseling and other services on-line, when to meet and when to cancel meetings.
I would love to begin using social media, including our own Moishe's List congregational list serve to announce needs, wants and offers. For example:
Do you need someone to shop for you?
Do you need someone to check in on you?
What can we do to relieve the stress of kids at home with working (or idled) parents?
Do you have access to some resource that might be helpful to people at this time?
Do you know of other social needs that members of our community might safely be able to offer to others? I am thinking of how people who depend on community meals will eat as churches and other agencies do what they need to do to limit close contact? How can we help with that?
People have shared with me resources, from poems to disease tracking websites to advise for disinfecting. I don't expect Temple Israel to be a source for medical or epidemiological expertise. I hope that we will be a source of social wealth for each other and a study in good deeds and kindness.
We will need prayer and preparation.
We will need concern and caution.
We will need promptness and patience.
We will need self-care and love of neighbor.
It is extraordinarily difficult to live with the dread and unknowns of this threatening and fluid situation. But this time, in fact, is like every other time. We do not know the number of our days. We do not know what each day will bring. This virus has humbled us and reminded us of this fact. It has focussed our minds and made us remember what is truly important. Whatever your prayers are - silence, Hebrew, mantras, intentions - they are more real and meaningful and needed at times like this, times of remembering.