The Shabbat message which comes to you from Rabbi Lisa normally starts with a short report on things that have happened in the community during that week. I cannot do the same this week, as I am still very much on the outskirts of this community. However, this Shabbat, in which we are finally allowed to think about the future, I feel a need to stop and think of the past two months, and some of the unexpected turns they took. We were constantly told, by various doom and gloom prophets, that the digital world we entered would make human interaction poorer, human connection more fragile. But seeing many of you online during prayers, in your homes, alone or with family members, finally learning everyone’s names, and feeling the intensity of the wish to be part of the community, did not feel to me like lack of connection. Learning in study sessions who has the vastest scientific knowledge, who had tadpoles in their gardens, and a bit of Torah too, did not feel like lack of intimacy, nor did being allowed into mourners houses feel as detachment. But at the same time, it also revealed to me how much I did not know – who was struggling with things we have no ritual for, who lost friends, connections, money, or just a little joy of life. It made me want to get to know you more.
This weekend, we are told, the ‘stay at home’ message would be amended. Once more, some of us will be able to go outside and resume some sort of normality. But how do we go back to a world in which 30,000 of us are no longer present? Into a world where we very likely still cannot see those dearest to us without posing a danger to them or to ourselves? What do we do when we have to decide for ourselves who is vulnerable, who to shelter, choose between loneliness and risk? What will happen to our new routines and surprisingly found treasures of quarantine?
My message for this Shabbat it ‘stay online with us’, it might not have the comforting touch of a hug, or the uplifting effect of a kiss from a grandchild, but it will have the powers of solidarity. We tend to think about people as standing at a center of a circle, surrounded by those closest to them, then their friends, their neighbours, their co-workers and so forth. This is true also in the religious sphere. As a synagogue, we are also surrounded and supported by the Movement of Reform Judaism, which has services to offer you which you might not be aware of – they are operating through RJ TV (https://www.reformjudaism.org.uk/rjtv-online-community-from-reform-judaism/) and have programs for youth and adult learners, as well as a weekday shachrit and mariv. If you would like say Kaddish on the exact yahrzeit, or over the whole shiva or year, pray for the sick, say hagomel – or sh’echianu during the week and not wait for Shabbat, this opportunity is opened to all of the reform movement members. The services are run by various rabbis, and we are all happy to see more people joining us. If you would like to make a personal request (apart from mentioning names which is always offered by the service leaders) or not sure about anything, please write to me: email@example.com
Student Rabbi Tali