Reflections from Rabbi René – yes to physical distance, no to social distance.

Two nights which were different from all other nights, yet the same….

The two nights of Pesach were certainly very different from all other nights, but something was the same: the warmth of our community. Despite the physical distancing, we managed to get together and to have a meaningful time. I do not like the expression “social distancing”. First, because it is the opposite of what we need at the moment. And second, because it is simply not true. We need “physical” distancing to slow the progress of the virus, but we also need to keep our social bonds strong and meaningful.

Learning from this time

Four weeks into the official lockdown, we can already witness the controversies that will rage when the crisis is over: why is our country heading to be the one in Europe with the highest death toll? How has this crisis been handled by the government? Were we really prepared? These are but a few of the questions that will be debated in a heated way in Parliament and on social media. I dread this already, as I’ve dreaded the Brexit saga all along. There is a terrible human cost, and we’ve started to hear of people who lost loved ones without being able to attend their funerals. There are also a of questions about the economic state of our word post-virus. There will be scrutiny – which is a healthy process in a democracy – but what seems the most important to me is that we learn from this time in order not to repeat the same mistakes.

God helps those who help themselves

Wednesday is the seventh day of the festival of Pesach, the day we remember how the sea split to allow the Children of Israel to walk to their safety. The Midrash relates that during the Exodus, the waters of the sea did not part until Nachshon ben Aminadav walked into the sea up to his nose (see Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer 42 for example). It is only when he stepped in that God commanded the sea to let them through. God helps those who help themselves. If we were to choose a Hebrew name for KLS, it could be B’nei Nachshon, the Children of Nachshon. I am so proud of my community, how everybody steps in to help each other, to ensure that we keep the bond strong and steady. The council meets every week and monitor the situation. I am also grateful to those who stepped in last minute to lead services when I was unwell.

Approaching Yom Hashoah

We now approach Yom Hashoah – I did wonder whether we should mark it this year or not, and then I remembered a story told by a Shoah survivor who said that even in the camps, some Jews marked Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar – until the Holocaust. If they could forget their plight to remember past generations who suffered so much, so can we.

Remember my friends, this too shall pass. We will be stronger, more aware of the importance of nurturing our community, and probably wiser too.