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Rabbi's Message (11/19/20)

“V’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha.”  “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) should be the international rallying cry of this moment.  If we really care about our neighbors, we must follow the guidelines of all the world’s health experts:  Wear masks, social distance, sanitize, and stay home as much as possible.  Never before has treating our neighbors with basic respect been as clearly a matter of life and death as it is right now.

Whatever limitations the State Legislature and Wisconsin Supreme Court place on local attempts to mandate health safeguards, as the pandemic rages on and the surge in cases and hospitalizations reaches an alarming rate, our congregation will following the wisdom of our own Beth Hillel COVID committee and the lead of the statewide interfaith community.  The synagogue building is closed indefinitely to everyone but our office manager, Philipp, who works by himself and follows strict masking, distancing and sanitizing protocols.  I will not be entering the building at all as long as construction workers are on site repairing the sanctuary.

We thank our COVID Committee:  Dr. Steven Schwimmer (infectious disease physician), Dr. Harley Sobin, Dr. Mimi Snyderman Platt,  Dr. Platina Gershtenson, David Domash, Steve Goldberg and Todd Letven for continuing to guide us as the months go by in confronting this world-wide health crisis.

Beyond our synagogue protocols, however, it is crucial that each and every one of us take the strictest precautions we can in our personal lives.  Like congregations everywhere, we are seeing more and more BHT members affected by the pandemic.  In the past month alone, we have had at least 5 members come down with the virus.  Thank God, all have recovered or are recovering and did not need hospitalization.  But, this brings close to home how the numbers are rising exponentially and how essential it is for each of us to do our part.  

If at all possible, we should not be leaving our homes.  I  have not set foot in a grocery store since March.  I have groceries delivered.  The other day, I found I needed a rather obscure kind of lightbulb that had burned out.  My instinct was to rush to the hardware store with the burned out bulb to find the one I needed.  But, I was able to find and order it online.   Everything that is possible to acquire via drive-thru or curbside should be accessed that way.  Did you know that the people at the pharmacy drive-up window will get items from the shelves for you as well?  Always wear masks and social distance, even when taking a walk in the park.  Our municipalities may not require it, but one never knows when you will encounter someone on the way.  

Above all, do NOT plan large family gatherings for Thanksgiving or Chanukah.  Even if you plan to gather a few people, make sure that everyone has negative COVID tests and immediately quarantines after the test until you have your gathering.  I know it is tempting to make exceptions for these special holidays, but it is better to give up one holiday in order to preserve health and life to be able to celebrate many more holidays in the future.

“V’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha” requires us to think not only of ourselves but to be a good neighbor and do the right thing to keep everyone safe.  The news about a coming vaccine is encouraging, and God willing, we may have a more normal life in coming months.   But, in the meantime, we cannot let up.  Our very lives and those of our neighbors depend on it.  The Talmud teaches “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a.)  Think about it:  The  small inconveniences we undertake today may very well save a life.  It may be the most important thing we ever do in our lives. 


Rabbi Dena Feingold

Sun, November 29 2020 13 Kislev 5781