Sarah Davis survived the Holocaust. A long time later, when she was 95, she succumbed to COVID-19. Six of us stood round her grave at measured distances from each other; her kids and grandson spoke of her life. Within the far distance, 4 mortuary staff waited for the service to conclude so they may fill within the gravesite. All of us wore masks.
Later that very same day, a girl whose father had died referred to as to ask about sitting shiva, the week of mourning within the Jewish custom, on this time of pandemic. “The primary requirement is staying house, appropriate?” “Sure,” I replied. “Everyone seems to be doing that anyway,” she stated. “I suppose,” I instructed her, “the entire world is sitting shiva.” She stated she discovered it surprisingly comforting.
Judaism is a convention constructed on group. Faith, stated the thinker Alfred North Whitehead, is what a person does along with his solitude. Not in Judaism. Some necessary prayers, together with the kaddish for the useless, are to be recited solely when not less than 10 persons are current. In Hebrew, a synagogue is named not a “home of worship,” however a “home of gathering.”
Proper now non secular leaders of all faiths are asking themselves: Will group ever come again because it as soon as was? This query has been requested earlier than. At Sinai Temple, the Los Angeles synagogue the place I’m the senior rabbi, the group went by means of an analogous expertise through the 1918 flu. Our centennial historical past e book, revealed in 2007, tells of the arrival of a brand new cantor on the heels of that calamity:
His arrival really was trigger for celebration. It marked the top of a obligatory 2-month ban on all public gatherings—together with non secular worship—to assist stop additional unfold of a lethal and raging influenza pandemic. Often called “Spanish Flu” or La Grippe, the influenza of 1918–1919 was a worldwide catastrophe. Households feared demise not solely from conflict, however from illness, as nicely. And with good motive: extra folks died of influenza in that single 12 months than in 4 years of the Black Demise through the Center Ages. Almost half of the American troopers who died, died not of conflict accidents however of the flu.
The power to congregate as soon as once more in public, plus the great thing about Cantor Silverman’s voice, introduced growing numbers of worshippers to Friday evening companies (which have been higher attended than the Shabbat morning service), and it turned obvious that elevated seating capability would quickly be wanted. Thus started the marketing campaign to create a “Larger Sinai.”
That was earlier than all of the technological advances which have introduced companies, courses, and discussions on-line. Now when all of the dinners and tributes and graduations are canceled, we mark them on Zoom—a frozen dinner instead of a feast. Rabbis around the globe with whom I’ve spoken query the sturdiness of historical practices. How deep will congregants’ dedication to their synagogues be after months of this? I recall an remark that probably the most important elements of the 1969 moon touchdown was that, for the primary time in historical past, when folks wished to see the moon, as a substitute of strolling exterior, they sat of their dwelling rooms and watched it on TV. Every morning, we watch companies on a display screen as a substitute of gathering within the synagogue. When the pandemic wanes, will we commerce our sweatpants for fits and be part of collectively once more? In a society the place dedication to establishments is waning and “becoming a member of” is not the social norm, synagogue attendance was already on the decline. Will this pandemic speed up the development or (hope in opposition to hope) revive the necessity to collect in prayer and celebration?
— to www.theatlantic.com