As my wife and I practice “social distancing” to protect ourselves, our family, friends, and community, and as we feel the anxiety that so many share, I’ve sought words of comfort as together we face this terrible pandemic.
Martin Buber, quoting Rabbi Pinchas said: “When a person is singing and cannot lift his/her voice and another comes along and sings with him/her, another who can lift that person’s voice, then the first will be able to lift his/her voice too. That is the secret of the bond between spirit and spirit.” (Tales of the Hasidim)
How do we lift each other’s spirit as we isolate ourselves from one another? That’s a fundamental humanitarian question in these days.
Thankfully, we have the internet, social media, telephones, Face-time, streaming of religious services, and the media as a whole to connect us to our families, friends, fellow Jews, and to the world beyond our front doors.
The biblical prophet Isaiah said, “Nachamu, nachamu ami – Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her…” (40:1)
In times of trouble, Isaiah’s words have always inspired and comforted me. Interpreting “Jerusalem” as a Place of peace, comfort, compassion, empathy, and justice, we can extend the meaning of Yerushalayim shel ma-alah (The Heavenly Jerusalem) to include our world community confronting together this frightening pandemic.
“May the One Who dwells in this Place comfort you” is a message inscribed on Kings Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. In our own “places,” may we know good health and feel comfort as we connect with each other in new ways in these days.