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Covid-19 Update - May 22

May 22, 2020

28 Iyar 5780

43rd Day of the Omer

Chevreh ("community of friends") -

This week, we begin reading the fourth book of the Torah. In English, it's called "Numbers," because it begins with a count. As the Israelites plan to move toward the Promised Land, Moses takes a census of the community. God instructs Moses to count the people b'mispar shemot - "in a counting of names."

their names, the Torah demands. Everyone matters.

And so we learn - every soul is created in God's image. Every person counts. Every spirit is sacred. It is this bedrock Jewish principle - the divinity and value of every human life - that has guided our decisions since the beginning of the Covid crisis.

This week, both the governor and president made statements supporting the opening of houses of worship. This has not changed our calculation one bit.

Each one of you is precious. And, right now, we cannot guarantee your safety if we gather in groups. And so the previous guidelines David and I sent out still stand. We join numerous houses of worship in Acton in saying that no educational, prayer, or community events will happen in our building for any age, at least through the month of June.

Yes, it is extraordinarily painful to be apart from all of you, to be kept at a distance from our community joining as one in prayer, from our clever and creative religious school students, from our ELC classes brimming with discovery and wonder. No, a screen is no substitute. And there's no way around how painful this is. I have been in contact with many of you as we mourn together what we've lost, and process the grief over the destruction in our world. If we haven't had a chance to speak, and you'd like to, please reach out to me.

In the meantime, I encourage you to be guided by these timeless Jewish touchstones:

· Kehillah - Community. A synagogue is much more than a structure. Right now, our building is closed. But our hearts and spirits are open. Our synagogue is open. Our board continues to reach out to all our members on a regular basis. Remarkable educational programs continue virtually, both for adults and children in every age group. Chesed and Na'aseh continue to reach both in and out, working with Brotherhood and Sisterhood to raise funds for all our communities. I urge you to connect and become involved in the amazing work of this extraordinary community.

· Zikaron - Remembrance. As I write, we are approaching 100,000 deaths from Covid nationwide. This is a time of massive loss. Some would prefer to downplay that catastrophe, to "get on" with "reopening America." Jews know from our history what happens when the value of lives are cheapened, and when death is downplayed as a necessary byproduct of "progress." We remind ourselves, as well, that the suffering has been disproportionately felt by our most vulnerable citizens - the working poor, people of color, the elderly. I invite you to continue to fight that injustice. I also invite you to grieve these unspeakable losses., naming those you've known and loved who have died from Covid, and to rise with us to say the mourner's kaddish even for the countless members of our larger communities whose names we'll never know.

· Ruach - Spirit. The book of Numbers teaches us to count everyone. This means that everyone counts. All of us have divine spirit in us. "I chose your soul, not because of what it was, but because of what it could become," the Chasidic teacher the Baal Shem Tov imagines God saying to us. "It possessed all that you need to fulfill your holy mission in this world." Even in the midst of physical suffering, the Jewish spirit has transcended the greatest calamities imaginable. With love and respect for the divine in each of us, we can survive and thrive and continue to grow into our best selves - even in the midst of this challenge.

In the spirit of kehillah, zikaron, and ruach, I invite you to join us this Sunday May 24th from 5:00 to 6:30pm, for a conversation about the upcoming High Holidays. We'll talk about community, both remembering what we've loved about High Holidays past and looking to enliven the spirit of our observance going forward. Your reflections will guide our thinking as we consider what High Holidays can mean for us, even in a time of hardship. 

And, as Shabbat enters, I invite you to remember what really matters - the precious and beautiful lives that surround all of us. Because every single one of them matters.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Mike

Sun, July 5 2020 13 Tammuz 5780