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Updates from Rabbi Jeff Pivo

To our EBJC members:

We have been suddenly and nearly completely isolated from each other over the past week. During the worldwide health crisis, this page will be where I offer sources for learning and inspiration. See my message below for thoughts on being a Jew during a crisis.

For those who are looking for a wonderful Jewish learning opportunity, check out the offerings this Sunday during the Limmud North America e-Festival:

Judaism During a Crisis

[From 3/20/20:] Instead of my usual Torah Thoughts this week, I want to talk about what’s happening right now. So much has changed over the course of one week, and continues to change nearly hourly. It has been a dizzying time, marked by fear and anxiety.


It is precisely at time of crisis that we must increase our bonds to family and community. The measure of our character is how we respond in difficult circumstances, and as a culture that values life - above communal prayer, above Torah study, above celebrating a wedding, all crucial elements of Jewish identity - we must now live out that value. In the Talmud we learn the principle of pikuach nefesh, that saving life takes precedence over other Jewish obligations. At EBJC we have already shown our commitment to pikuach nefesh by canceling all public events, including on-site services, to slow the spread of sickness. But that must be the beginning, not the end, of our obligations to each other. Whether this crisis lasts weeks, months, or longer, we must use that time to talk, to study, and to pray.


Here are some of the ways you can maintain some sense of normalcy and help others to do the same in a time of crisis:


Talk: Take the time you are at home to have honest conversations with family members about what is most important. Call family and friends to check on them. Even if nothing has changed in a day or two, hearing a loving voice by phone or video can have a powerful effect on our psyches.


Learn: Being shut in can be terribly isolating, not only from other people but also from our regular routine. Just as young people are transitioning to online learning, adults should take the opportunity to learn. Those who were already taking classes in person, should now find ways to learn online. Those who now have time that they would not otherwise have should habituate themselves to grow intellectually and spiritually. We are in the process of setting up live streaming sessions at EBJC, but there is no reason to wait. Find solace in reading great books, watching classic films, and listening to music. Torah study, in particular, can connect us to our history and each other. Read the weekly Torah portion and discuss it with family. Improve your Hebrew reading or speaking. Draw from Judaism’s deep well of wisdom.


Pray: I wouldn’t be doing my job if this wasn’t on the list. Prayer can be fixed, using a siddur at a particular time of day, or more informal, providing us with the chance to think deeply, and to feel deeply. We are live streaming daily services morning and evening, in addition to Friday night and Shabbat morning. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said: Prayer may not save us, but it will make us worthy of being saved.


Act: If you are healthy and willing to deliver food or other supplies to the elderly, contact me and I will get you in touch with our Membership committee. They have taken the lead in contacting and assisting our elderly members. In order to keep yourself physically fit, take a walk outside or work out in the house to music or video instruction. Keeping healthy is a basic Jewish value.


In the coming days our staff and volunteers will be increasing our online presence, enabling us to reestablish something like our regular week of learning. If anyone in our shul needs to talk, they should call my cell phone: 847-777-9682. At a time like no other, we must rise to our tradition’s highest expectations of us.



Mon, March 30 2020 5 Nisan 5780