26 March 2020
By Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich
I am writing to you from Nottingham, on behalf of my community, at the very beginning of the month of Nisan with greetings of hope, friendship and the good news of a coming Exodus both from slavery, when it comes to our sedarim, and from the modern plague– a double celebration this year!
I know that reality seems to state otherwise and at times it is not easy to be as positive. I have experienced this myself.
I ventured out on our weekly shopping trip to my local shops last week. Oi vey and Mama Mia all together. I never thought that being a newly-converted vegan would have paid off that quickly: there wasn’t much out there apart from vegetables, fruit and beverages.
My son and I were so happy with all those veggies and fruit! I don’t remember the last time I saw empty shelves in my life and it felt like we had won the lottery. You won’t believe me but in the only section which was more or less stocked, the alcohol section, we opted for bottled water! My son told me that alcohol is not good for my immune system if I still need to be out and about then that health Guru of mine had better be right!
The virus has arrived and started attacking our communities and, as of this week, we are all in lockdown. We are at the beginning of the tunnel and there is a way to go but at least we are moving in the right direction towards the light. We will be on the other side of the virus before you know it. As Robert Lee Frost, the American poet, said it: “The best way out is always through.”
We are all blessed with this sunny weather, fresh air, our homes and the blossoming spring and we are on our way through this Mactamus Infortunio (horrible time). The numbers of people affected by the virus and the death toll are still growing. Some of you may be struggling with a lack of face to face social contact, some of you may be really worried for your loved ones who are either working or are in self-isolation. It is one thing to talk about this epidemic but it is completely different to actually experience it.
We are living through challenging times indeed but then it is an opportunity for us to re-connect to ourselves, each other and to generations of our ancestors who came before us and went through slavery, expulsions, pogroms, endless persecutions and the Holocaust.
How did they do it? It was through the strength of their spirits. That is what carried our ancestors through their lives’ vicissitudes and that is what will carry us through it all as well. We, the Jewish people, are accustomed to a life of adversity and staying at home for weeks in order to protect our life is not the easiest but also not the hardest challenge we have ever been through.
As Winston Churchill put it: “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” Your attitude towards the situation we are all in and your mental strength matters every day. This is the time to prepare yourself, both mentally and spiritually, not only for our traditional Exodus from slavery to freedom, but also from this modern plague to becoming a better and a stronger person. After all, diamonds are made under pressure.
It is also the time to take responsibility for yourself and others just as we all know it: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself what am I? And if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel’s words as apt as ever.
The Liberal Judaism office is working tirelessly to bring us all together with many initiatives ranging from online prayers, study sessions, various committee meetings to providing us with support and being there for us. This is the time for us to appreciate not only our wonderful communities but also being part of the Liberal movement as one big family. We are all in it together and we can go through this time of adversity together too.
I had a walk through my local park a few days ago and took some pictures (one above). I have not been for a walk there for about five years. The quarantine, and having most meetings/one to ones online or on the phone, enabled me to take an hour off during the day. I believe it is important for us to focus people on these kinds of silver linings of the situation we are in now.
Please stay strong, stay positive, make the most of this unique opportunity to work on yourself and share your creativity, knowledge and kindness with others.
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