Rabbi Dayle's May 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted May 5, 2020, 3:24 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jun 1, 2020, 3:40 PM ]
Dearest Leyv Ha-Ir Hevre (friends),

I write this message amid unimaginable conditions: we have all been confined to our homes for five weeks; our lives have become circumscribed; we have missed trips, cultural events, and family visits; we have faced fear and danger, and some of us have personally combated the feared COVID-19 virus; we have not gathered in person in two months.

How are we to maintain our equilibrium in this time of challenge? It is so easy to sink into discouragement, sadness, even despair. One answer is clearly to maintain and deepen our connection to each other, as we share virtual prayer, study and gatherings with the Leyv Ha-Ir community.  We will keep doing this!

I want to suggest an additional response, one hinted at by this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim (holiness). This parashat contains many varied commandments aimed at fostering sanctity in our lives.  Some are ethical in nature, some ritual. Among the commandments are these two:

·    Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Eternal. (Leviticus 19:18)

·    Love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I the eternal am your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

Two observations about these mitzvot/commandments. First, a central path toward living a life of sanctity is through loving others.  Second, in each of these verses, we are reminded of God’s relationship with us.  What is the connection?  It would seem that when we love others, whether the closest person to us, or the one most remote or different from us, we are in relationship with the Divine.  As Martin Buber taught, when we are in real relationship, God is present.

What can these verses teach us about surviving and thriving in the age of Coronavirus? We are obligated to turn our attention, and our hearts, beyond ourselves.  We are all experiencing loss and difficulty in this crisis, but we are not the only ones.  Right here in our city, those who were teetering on the edge of economic insecurity have been catapulted into dire need.  Those who are still working in the most essential jobs in food distribution, transportation, and healthcare, are imperiling their lives and their families every time they go to work.

We can transform our experience by directing our love, prayers and resources toward those most in need.  As we all know, when we practice empathy, we are not alone, and we are making a difference.

For those of you able to make a financial contribution, please consider these local efforts:

Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund

Philabundance’s emergency food distribution initiative

Fuel the Fight Philly, a great project which creates work for restaurant workers and provides meals for healthcare workers

I pray we will find health, strength and resilience, and that this crisis may open our hearts to each other, and to all who are suffering.

Bivracha—in blessing,

Rabbi Dayle