Today’s Bissel Torah was written by Laura Naide.
In our CEH Religious School, students study a new Jewish value each month. We start each school year with Derekh Eretz which we translate as “the right path,” or “courtesy.” In our school community, it is important to show respect and courtesy to our teachers and fellow students as well as to the physical space in which we learn. In subsequent months we learn many different values – some of which correspond with holidays on the Jewish calendar. For example, we might study Hachnasat Orchim, “welcoming guests,” in the Fall. Hachnasat Orchim is part of our Sukkot tradition, which obliges us to welcome friends, family and the community into our sukkah.
For the past month, I have been thinking about how to view the novel coronavirus crises through the lens of Jewish values. There are so many factors we can’t control under our current circumstances. For example, we have little or no control over closed schools and workplaces, shelter-in-place orders, limited availability of food and paper products, and the trajectory of the virus. But we do have control over how we react to these circumstances. For example, we can control how we treat ourselves and others, how we maintain our community connections, and what values we emphasize.
Here are some values that help me to frame our current circumstances. First, Shmirat HaGuf, or “taking care of our bodies.” I admit to quarantine binging (thanks, Krispy Kreme) and cutting back on my activity. As quarantine continues, however, I am making an effort to take better care of myself. The weather is improving so long walks are possible. I am trying to keep a regular sleep schedule. And I am keeping a gratitude journal to boost my mental health. Second, Shalom Bayit, or “peace in the home.” We are experiencing a lot of togetherness – even my cats are getting on each other’s nerves! I am trying to be respectful of my family and give each person a private space.
Another value to consider is Bikkur Cholim, which we usually translate as “visiting the sick.” I’ve temporarily changed the translation to “aiding the sick,” to accommodate social distancing. I’ve been sending cards, making calls, and donating to organizations that are helping people with COVID 19 as well as the medical professionals who are caring for them. I’m also trying to educate myself on how to keep myself and others healthy through simple steps such as wearing a mask and cutting down on errands.
Finally, our Religious School value for April is Kehilla, or “community.” Although most of us can’t be in the same physical space we can still build and maintain community. For example, at CEH we have brought Religious School online on Sundays and Wednesdays using the Zoom platform. After our students got over the novelty of online learning (e.g., being able to chat with each other and “draw” on the screen with virtual markers) they’ve settled into a comfortable routine of minyan, music and grade-level learning. No matter how I feel during the week, I am always uplifted by seeing our school “in session.” There are many other ways to build community including tefilla and adult learning at CEH, social media (in limited doses!), emailing and simply picking up the phone.
I hope that you all are safe and enjoying good health. Please let me know of other Jewish values that are on your mind (email@example.com). I look forward to the time when we can come together again in person at Congregation Etz Hayim.
This Week’s Events
Tuesday, April 21st
*5:00 PM – Weekly Virtual Happy Hour and Bissel Torah Chat
Friday, April 24th
*6:15 PM – Kabbalat Shabbat Service.
Interactive Pirke Avot discussion will follow.
Saturday, April 25th
*9:00 PM – CEH Online Havdalah