Thursday, May 28, 2020

Of course, no one was there and the door was locked. But it felt good just to stand outside near the building. There is an amazing cluster of shuls here. Something for everyone. I haven’t missed being at shul for Rosh Chodesh benching or Shabbat Chazak for a very long time and I didn’t want to miss it this time either.

So I stood nearest to where I thought the Aron would be located on the inside and read through until the end of Parshat Pikudei. I then called out, “Chazak, Chazak, v’Nitchazeik!” [my mother baked a chocolate cake…]

We might not be together inside, but we still finished Sefer Shemot! I thought of Simchat Torah and the celebration we make at the completion of reading all five books of the Torah. It’s the same thought whenever I hear about or attend a siyum and the recent Siyum HaShas: We are still here—all these thousands of years later, living and learning, carrying the torch of Torah forward to each generation. The obstacles have been tremendous; insurmountable for anyone else. No other people could have survived, even thrived, on a journey such as ours and come out whole, still carrying the banner, and with their collective eye focused on the future!

Later it was time for Rosh Chodesh benching. With particular focus on those words of the Y’hi Ratzon, we ask for many things. Sandwiched between our prayer for a life of sustenance and fear of heaven is the request for physical health. Hmmmm….When have we ever davened with such fervor, as a single heart and as a world united?

And it is Rosh Chodesh Nisan that we benched! Hardly seems possible that we’ve traveled the few short weeks of looking forward to Purim until now, with Pesach just two weeks away! How did we get here so fast? In a flash, first Purim, and then our plans for Pesach, changed. I think it is fair to say that almost no one in the world will celebrate Pesach this year in the way they originally planned. How quickly something usual can become so unexpected.

The vastness and fluidity of our current situation appears to convey a “louder” than usual hint.

We are getting an inkling of what it must have been like when our ancestors lost access to the Beit Hamikdash and eventually saw it destroyed and everyone exiled. The conditions were much more difficult, but we can now relate more personally to such a loss, having been “exiled” from our own shuls.

Where ordinarily it is an important mitzvah to go to shul whenever possible, it has now become a mitzvah not to go! Nothing ordinary about that! Yet shul is a privilege we have come to take for granted over the past many years and generations, as well as the functions and prayers that are possible only in shul or with a minyan: Kaddish, Kriyat Hatorah, etc. We now stand bewildered at how quickly and easily it was snatched from our grasp, and not for the historically typical reasons of oppression, tyranny, or destruction; but rather “pikuach nefesh” and “achdus!”

Our local and world leaders have been quick to rally to our side, providing amazing chizuk and creating opportunities and options to continue learning, davening, reciting tehillim, and other vital functions. The internet and social media, often misused, abused or worse and shunned by many, has now come to our rescue! V’Nahafochu! Realizing the importance and benefits of humor, people have outdone and continue to out-do their creativity in developing text cartoons, memes, and gifs to keep us light hearted and connected. It takes a village, and the village now spans the entire world!

The cries of “Mashiach” have been heard as well and whether this global mageifah is the beginning of the days of Mashiach remains to be seen. But I can’t help but think that there is also a global flag flying, a message to everyone, and possibly especially for us as a Jewish world community. We can respond to the message by stretching ourselves outside our “comfort and complacent zone” and stepping up to re-align with the overall mission of our people.

Everyone can do something to strengthen or refine their manner and quality of human relationships. A little something—a positive something, an altruistic, personal, meaningful and enduring something—and not revert back to the old way once the crisis has passed. Everyone can do something and we can start right now. Every kindness that we do makes the world a kinder place.

Start small, and what seems small is sure to grow! Without the spiritual demands of a Yom Kippur it seems that if everyone does a little something it can quickly make a pretty big and pretty significant difference. We have so much to gain, and so little to lose by trying.

Some actions can have a singular good or a greater good and both are beneficial. I don’t know whether “going to shu,” could possibly have provided some untraceable benefit to anyone else, since at the time it was private. Either way, it did quietly make a difference to me and our family, and that can have a positive and communal flow as well.

So, here’s a great exercise for everyone, together and apart, because there is truly an abundance of potential for an infinite number of amazingly positive things to result from this crisis and its swelling effects.

Sit down and let your positive and creative imagination flow. List five or more possible positive benefits or outcomes and give them some focus. Visualize and eee them in your mind’s eye as a live reality. Notice what everything looks like: colors, textures, temperatures, shapes, aromas, flavors [if applicable], and the looks on peoples’ faces. Sit or stand for a few minutes and absorb all of these sensory experiences. Notice how they make you feel, and allow a few minutes for them to slowly fade as you return to your daily activity.

Add to your list whenever you come up with other ideas, or re-enact them regularly. Smile if they make you happy. Share your ideas with family and friends, and encourage others to make their own list. Sometimes “thoughts become things,” [movie/book/CD “The Secret”]. We can transform positive thoughts into reality. And, even thinking positive thoughts has an immensely positive benefit.

These ideas don’t imply burying your head in the sand; we can’t just “wish this away.” But it does mean we can begin to focus and act on the potential for good. Every good thought begins with the power of one and can grow from there. Even better if many people have the same good thought at the same time!

Let’s build on the positive power of one with our hearts focused on the Klal and the future!

By Ellie Wolf