15/16 May 2020, 21/22 Iyar 5780

Rabbi Rebecca writes:

Stay Alert

It’s been such a curious message for us to digest and figure out since Sunday, in light of physical safety during the Corona virus. We passed through Lag B’Omar, 33rd day of the Omer that signifies a break in solemnity due mostly to the Talmudic narrative that the plague Rabbi Akita and his students suffered, lifted that day. *

COVID 19 hasn’t lifted for us. Perhaps we are moving into the next stage but it certainly hasn’t lifted. I watched the extraordinary #Hospital films of the Royal Free’s response to Corona. It is still very real, weeks on even now. BBC news night continues to relay information about foolish steps taken and not taken that may have accelerated deaths in Care Homes and other sectors. Being aware and engaged by all, is this staying alert?

I underhand that as essential, not just for our own safety but for other’s as well. We are reminded often of this way of being in Jewish tradition.

Leviticus (ch.19) calls for such vigilance-Do not stand by the blood (suffering) of your neighbour. Deuteronomy will echo that (ch. 22) ostensibly about returning lost animals but ending with the brilliant imperative You must not remain indifferent.

I’ve observed this week the images of golf courses and Garden Centres opening whilst those in low paid essential work are back on London transport in packed conditions. Is this staying alert, observing the class divide? The fact that we are all experiencing the same pandemic but how we are touched by it differs radically?

This week, friends, my rabbinic duties have been wide ranging; preparing and teaching a class on the Shema and what beliefs bind us as Jews, sitting in Marilyn and Neil Branston’s driveway on a distanced pastoral call trying to load ZOOM onto their computer, navigating through a mourning familiy’s anguish and leading the very private funeral and warm and expansive Shivah for the much loved Betty Robinson, delivering food from many of you to the new Food Bank in North Finchley and to an isolated young refugee on East End road who has been left without support. And then the Homeschool here at my kitchen table and the varied moods of resistance, disappointment and diligence that come to it. I’m only too aware of the varied moods and energies of my 20+ meditative shacharit attendees. It’s not easy this even for those who are safe, well and protected from the front-line and the concerns for feeding and keeping families safe.

Perhaps this is what staying alert is. And taking a break for Shabbat, no matter how your week has been is essential to mark the distinctions we so need.

Dean and I are looking forward to seeing you for Shabbat Resouled and our Shabbat morning service.

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom,