From Grief to Hope, Together

From Grief to Hope, Together

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

This past week, you expressed compassion and kindness for more than a few families that were grieving, including mine. Lisa’s father died and was laid to rest in Tucson. For every family that faced grief, we comforted them with memories, stories, and shared experiences. As I did for Lisa, and you did for your family and friends, we asked, “What can we do for you?” We only asked after we already did all that we could but hoped that if anything was left undone that they would let us know. In our prayers, we prayed that healing would come after grief and that renewed hope in life would follow their sorrows.  

Their grief isn’t dissimilar to the prolonged sorrows we’ve endured since March 2020, when the pandemic began and settled in. Cycles of grief and dismay followed by hopefulness and relief followed by disillusionment and distrust have wreaked havoc on us. At times, we’ve asked ourselves, who are our friends, where do we fit in, who can we trust, and does anyone care? These questions are revealed in your notes to me that are filled with reflections and angst about this prolonged and disorienting experience. I’ve asked similar questions.

Rather than answer each question on its own, I’ve relied on a cherished value founded on a 1st century teaching by Rabbi Hillel. He asked, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” So, I thought about what’s best for my health during this pandemic and put on a mask and got a vaccine. My choice. But Hillel also asked, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” So, I put on a mask and got a vaccine to protect others from the possibility that I might be asymptomatic but still a carrier of a potentially deadly virus especially near people who are vulnerable. And Hillel concluded, “If not now, when?” Despite sometimes confusing COVID guidelines, I made a personal and Jewish choice based on what I could learn about COVID prevention and acted promptly. Sometimes I feel alone wearing my mask when others don’t (and frankly I’m tired of wearing a mask), but if I can help others feel secure near me, then I have no regret about wearing a mask when I should.

Our Sages also taught, “Gam Zeh Ya’avor,” this too shall pass. I believe it. I just want to be here when it does and look back on what we did for each other as a community of caring people. Though there was no playbook on how to deal with a pandemic, I hope that what we did was enough and that we acted properly. Now as “numbers” decline, we are thankful to our tireless Taskforce for letting us ease the protocols for participation in Beth Israel worship and programs. The Taskforce now recommends:

  • Mask wearing in the Temple is optional for members and visitors who are current on their vaccinations, including a booster, if they’re eligible. 
  • If they have a risk of COVID-19, members and visitors should wear a properly fitting mask, even if vaccinated.
  • Children ages 2 to 5, who are not yet eligible for vaccine, should wear a mask.
  • Those who are unvaccinated should continue to wear a mask on our premises.
  • At MBJLC and Shlenker School, everyone should continue to wear a mask.

The pandemic has tested us, but it hasn’t broken us. It’s a testament to our Jewish values that we have stood up to it with all the weaponry and armor we could muster and prevailed! No more funerals for COVID victims; I’ve done enough. No more empty rooms where we should be gathering and connecting. We need to hold each other. No more platters of uneaten pull-apart cake on Shabbat. It’s a sin to waste it. Grief isn’t the norm; it’s a part of life but grief shouldn’t define it.

God bless you this week with health and well-being. God bless you with reasons to be hopeful. God bless you with all that you wish for yourself and others, too, that we may all enjoy days and nights in peace.


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