Message from Rabbi Berman
It’s a dance.
First we take all kinds of steps to not contract the virus. The numbers go down. Some people think the crisis is over and go everywhere without a mask. Lots of people go to the beach. The numbers rise again. Repeat step one. The numbers go back down a little. Then, just as you think things are getting under control, an opportunity comes up for people to gather in large numbers. A party. A protest. A rally. The numbers tick upward again. People are stranded without work. Which is worse? The economy going south or the spike in corona-martyrs?
For TBE, it’s a simple decision. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.
Let’s state the obvious: Much of our congregation is in the “at-risk” category. There are basically two factors that increase the likelihood of one of us getting the virus. One is exposure. Coming within sneezing (or singing or kibitzing) distance, usually about 4 cubits (6 feet) increases that likelihood. The other factor is length of exposure. With these two considerations in mind, it’s hard to justify the resumption of services in the chapel just now.
So what to do? First, there’s our livestream on Shabbat morning at 9:30 am. (To access the livestream, go to our website at https://www.tbe-oc.org.) It’s a little strange for Cantor Zev and I to be there, keeping a distance between us and not able to bounce off the warmth of the congregation. Yet we still enjoy it, though I miss seeing you in person. I miss the conversations over our Kiddush lunches. But the times and circumstances warrant this approach.
Our Happy Hours on Thursdays at 7:00 pm on Zoom have also been fun. Some of us are talking to each other more now than before! And we have started having services the last Friday night of every month. In May the cantor and I were on the livestream. By the time you get this, we will have had a Friday night with Dale Schatz on Zoom. And we’re trying to figure out how the Orange Jews can play before a Friday night service later in the summer, as we have done in years past. We’ll let you know what we come up with.
Dealing with the situation has not only practical but also religious implications. Why is this happening? A traditional response is guilt, also known as taking full responsibility. “We must have done something!” But when we look around and see that we are not the only ones affected, that is obviously not the right approach. Let me say this unequivocally: COVID-19 is not a punishment from the Eternal. The ancient rabbis understood that when chaos sticks its ugly head into this world and wreaks havoc, that is not a message from on high. That’s the world behaving by its own rules. In an old Chassidic story, someone asks the rebbe, “Why is this act of God happening?” The answer: “This disaster is not an act of God. It is an act of nature. The act of God happens when we help each other through it.”
So call each other, check up on each other, and I’ll keep checking too. Let me know what needs attention. We’re all making do. As the Orange Jews sing, remember to keep on the sunny side.
See you in cybershul.