I imagine many of us were surprised when the CDC made its announcement last week that people who were vaccinated no longer needed to wear masks in most situations. (Please check the CDC and MA websites for precise guidelines.) It seemed rather sudden and the medical community and even the White House were unprepared for the news. How much more so the Jewish Community, and how much more so Temple Emanuel Sinai! For some, the announcement brought excitement and joy; for others, anxiety and confusion; and for most of us, all of the above.
Although these past 14 months have spanned from challenging to horrific, we have been blessed with community. We have come together through online platforms for worship, study, comfort, and joy. We have called and texted and zoomed and FaceTimed and most of all connected with each other. Even so, nothing replaces being in each other’s presence. As our tradition teaches, “When two people study together, the Shechina – God’s Divine Presence – rests between them.” For me, when people gather together, we bring God’s presence in our midst.
Our congregation and its leadership have had ongoing conversations on when and how we can regather for the same meaningful experiences we have been participating in online. I hope and expect in-person experiences to take place gradually with multiple ways to access them (both in-person and online). If you follow TES communication in all formats, you won’t miss the information and guidelines that will explain decisions as they form and will likely have to change again (print, eNews , website, bulletin, etc).
Most of all, you should know that all the decisions made at TES are based on our Jewish Values and congregational input. Temple Emanuel Sinai, as expressed in our vision, places these values as primary: belonging and support, inclusion, innovative and creative learning, joyful worship, and social and environmental justice. We have invested in these values throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so. Decision-making will also be based on additional values that we hold dear, including the ones recommended in the CCAR Guidelines on Value-Based Decision Making.
Summarized, they are:
- Minyan—Jews worship in community
- Pikuach Nefesh—Saving and protecting human life is Judaism’s highest mitzvah, and we hold it high above all the other commandments
- Aseih l’cha Rav—We read in Pirkei Avot 1:6, “Find yourself a rabbi.” Though often translated as “teacher,” the term “rabbi” in this phrase suggests expertise. As this public health crisis continues, we look toward the expertise of public health authorities, specialists in infectious disease, and epidemiologists for guidance concerning the best decisions for our community.
- Mipnei seivah takum—“You shall rise before the aged” (Leviticus 19:32). We celebrate the multi-generational character of our community. We must not take actions that would either stigmatize or compromise the health and well-being of the elderly or individuals with preexisting conditions who are considered most vulnerable to Covid-19.
- Dina d’malchuta dina—“The law of the land is the law” (Shulchan Aruch). We will follow all guidelines as set by the CDC and the state of Massachusetts. As we balance all of our these values, we are likely to lean more conservative in our guidelines.
I love seeing your faces and hearing your voices through my computer, iPad and iPhone. I love reading your comments in the Zoom chat and on Facebook. I don’t know how I would have managed spiritually during this time without our connections and interactions. AND I’m yearning for the time when we will see the smiles in each other’s eyes and hear each other’s voices directly with our own ears and eyes.