Chazah, chazak v’nitchazek!

You have guessed right! This is what we say in unison in synagogue after having finished the reading and study of one of the books of Torah.

What does it mean? Something like, “Be strong, Be strong, Let us be strengthened!

This is what we all need to say to each other right now, as we confront and fight the coronavirus and as we have begun living in uncharted times and uncharted historical territory.

Yet, in some ways it is not all that uncharted! As Jews we have confronted similar times and territory before and have not only been able to cope for long stretches of time but in the end have been successful. So, this time, too, we, like our African-American sisters and bothers must sing, we shall overcome! And we shall!

But simple optimism is not enough. Hope is a double edged sword. Hope based on optimism without a healthy dose of realism is dangerous. We have seen that this kind of onesided optimism on the part of our government has not been helpful. Finally, finally, we all have come to grips with the real dangers that the coronavirus represents and how we must fight it as if it were a human enemy. How do we go about it?

Our biblical tradition can be helpful in placing us on the right path.

Pesach – Passover will soon be here. The Israelites are in the desert and they face an unknown future. Although we live at a different time and under different conditions, we too, are presently in a desert, not knowing what the future holds. We haven’t got a Moses to safely lead us through this difficult and dangerous time, but we have Dr. Fauce, the director of NIH’s dept. of infectious diseases, a modern day Moses to advise us how to be safe and, most of all, how NOT to panic. And we have our local organizations, religious and secular, who try to guide us through this time. Thank you, friends!

One of the great biblical teachings from that time that is applicable now and should correctly orient us with regard to what everyone of us needs to be and to do, is this: when Moses comes down the second time from Mount Sinai to prepare for the building of the mishkan – also called the desert Tabernacle, he requests the people to volunteer in the building of the sanctuary. And they magnificently respond. Each individual participates with his and her capacity and the work is completed. Yes, it takes a village to accomplish great things.

Once again we are in the desert, this time not alone but with all of global humanity. The exact future is unknown to us but we can say with certainty that together. and only together WE SHALL OVERCOME.

Gail and I are deeply grateful to be part of the Asheville area Jewish village. We are pleased to have received a number of calls from fellow-villagers, with offers of assistance. Old folks that we are, the support we are able to offer cannot be material or physical, for obvious reasons. But we are able to help by participating with one another in intellectual and spiritual ways, via phone and internet and, last but not least, by washing our hands in unison with you, our friends, as Dr. Fauce orders…chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek!

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