First off, let me apologize for my absence. I have been struggling a lot lately in the midst of this pandemic, and I suppose I have felt I did not have much to say. Ironically, working some of my thoughts out here would have been immensely helpful, but alas I retreated into my own brain.
Second, let me thank Ben, not only for his insightful and remarkable posts, but for picking up the slack and for keeping the train on the tracks. He is a great engine.Part of my “mourning” has been for the loss of Jewish things. I remember that very first Shabbat under quarantine, and the way it was explained by multiple rabbis made me feel much better. It wasn’t that Hashem was taking anything AWAY from us, he was showing us what was truly important… He was showing us how important staying at home with family was… how important eating together and talking together was. He was defining or redefining Shabbat. That moved me, that comforted me.
But then the pandemic kept going… it grew and grew. I saw friends lose family members. I saw musicians and artists and people I admired pass away. I saw other things being made impossible… Jewish things like sitting Shiva… not being able to have a minyan at a funeral, not being able to have a minyan at Shul… not being able to have Shul.
If you would have asked me, before my 2014 trip to Israel, would I miss not being able to go to Shul on Friday nights, I would have said, I don’t usually go to Shul on Friday nights. And now I was feeling deeply saddened by not being around my group of guys… my Chabad… my friend and Rabbi Avi Rabin… I was missing my in person connection to Judaism.Then the pandemic affected Passover, with Zoom Seders becoming the “norm.” And now, Shavuot. A holiday I knew little about growing up, has become my favorite holiday after Passover. I cannot tell you how much I love wandering around the “Chood,” moving from space to space. Sitting outside for multiple classes with my friend and Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld… Being inspired… running into friends from my trip… being inspired and reinvigorated. Shlomo’s call to us when we were in Israel was to bring the Kotel back home… back to LA… and everything he does, every class he leads, helps me do that.
And yet… my sadness came back when I realized this, too would be gone this year. No gathering together in person… and not even an electronic solution…
While I have learned to have Faith and I have learned that Hashem rules the world, and having questions and not understanding is okay… I keep trying to get some grasp on the why… why is this happening? Why are we losing things that are so important… commandments… vital parts of Judaism.Rabbi Avi says G-d is not punishing us, but he is showing us consequences of our actions, teaching us vital lessons. And Rabbi Shlomo just last night said that the lesson must be to celebrate these things every single day. He said, “Shavuot is the only holiday that has no date in the Torah… It is simply 50 days after we left Egypt. And this is because it is every day. We need to realize who we are and what we have every, single day.”
I am still sad… still feeling loss… still feeling lost… but lessons like this… Zoom classes and calls… words of wisdom make me realize I am not and am never alone.
And then, with no coincidence of course, this was the Omer Meditation for Day 41:
“Looking at your world from Above, all is good.
Looking at your world from within, things don’t always look so nice.
Until you connect your world from within to the world above. Then the goodness flows downward without distortion.
How do you make that connection? By clinging tightly above. By putting all your trust in G-d.”
– Tanya, Igeret Hakodesh 11, Likutei Torah Chukat 62a
We are not in Shul, we are not with friends, we will not be gathering together in large groups to learn on Shavuot… but we are not alone. As long as we have Fatih and connection to Hashem, as long as we take what is inside and connect it Above, we are not alone. We are never alone.