As the coronavirus pandemic continues to engulf us all, we wrestle with two choices: Stay home or go out in the community.
For us--as Jews--protecting ourselves, our families, and others, matters above all else. After all, preserving human life--the commandment of
supersedes all other Jewish laws.
But a Jewish life is meant to be lived in the binary. We need the two halves of home and community to live a wholly Jewish life.
Since the second temple was destroyed and the Jewish people scattered throughout the Diaspora, we've been seeking a space to be Jewish.
We have discovered those spaces equally in both home and community.
First, we recognize the home as the home base, a "small sanctuary," for Jewish life. The home is considered a holy place. It's in the home where, from birth, we're forming the nucleus of who we are as Jews.
From the moment we wake up in the morning, before we even get out of bed, we as Jews are taught to say the
prayer thanking God for the gift of life.
Indeed, it is in the home where we kiss the
, light the Shabbat candles, fry up the latkes, break-the-fast, and hide the
But Judaism isn't supposed to be practiced solely in the privacy of the home. Rather, Jews are part of the
--a peoplehood--and we're not meant to go it alone. We're part of a shared community with a shared purpose.
We need a
-a quorum of at least 10 people--for a prayer service because communal prayer has a power to it not found in praying alone. Indeed, we pray together, we grieve together, and we celebrate together, too.
Passover, just around the corner, is a beloved community holiday where we're told to welcome "all who are hungry to come and eat," This spring's collective change of plans challenges us as Jews in a new way.
Out of an abundance of caution, and in the name of public health and
, we've canceled a lot of upcoming Passover activities. Jewish institutions have canceled many community Seders. Many of us have canceled flights to go spend the Seders with loved ones far away. And even the most welcoming home hosts and hostesses are reconsidering whether to open up their Seder tables to others this year.
As disappointing as it all is, the coronavirus crisis is a chance for the Jewish people to practice our long-tested resiliency of spirit. We've been through so much worse and we will adapt as needed here, too.
In this strange time that we're living in, we can find ways of being present for each other, Jews and non-Jews alike, even if that means spiritually and emotionally--but not physically.
And even if we're forced to postpone or cancel events on the calendar or to downsize our Seders this year, the virus can't take away the stuff that really matters. The virus can't diminish our values, our compassion, our joy, or our love for one another.
My favorite inspirational words these last few weeks came from the writer and motivational speaker Jamie Tworkowski.
"Conversations will not be canceled. Relationships will not be canceled. Love will not be canceled. Songs will not be canceled. Reading will not be canceled. Self-care will not be canceled. Hope will not be canceled. May we lean into the good stuff that remains."
Though we're spending a lot of time apart these days, remember that we're all in this together.