Coping with Covid-19: A Spiritual Perspective

 Dear CBA Family, For most of us, the prospect of coping with a pandemic such as the Coronavirus is a totally new experience. We read of the catastrophic consequences of its outbreak and you may have seen the graphs of how the disease originally spread exponentially in China, and, as of this moment, it appears to be contained, while across the world its course remains uncertain.
The degree to which so much is still uncertain: the fact that at this point there is no known vaccine – and it will take anywhere from 6 months to over a year to go through the process of developing one; the phenomenal speed with which the disease can spread; the current lack of adequate testing; the potential strain it could place on our health-care system; the question of sufficiently effective treatment and the potential mortality rate, all add up to raise a sense of alarm, if not outright panic.
However, a panic response is seldom, if ever, helpful in approaching a problem.
From all we know at present, if one is not displaying flu like symptoms requiring quarantine; the most helpful approach in preventing transmission is thorough personal hygiene – especially hand washing or sanitizing – and social distancing.
At Beth Ami what steps are we taking?
– We have, essentially, closed operations for the time being, but in addition:
– Jim Sweeney assisted by Lee Feinstein are in the process of developing a system of “live streaming” which will enable those who have computers etc. with internet-access to view services on Shabbat and Festivals. This would be available in “real time” as well as recorded versions.
– Our synagogue president, Carolyn Metz has been working tirelessly on the various ways in which the synagogue is meeting the current challenges. Additionally, she is putting together a plan which would enable synagogue meetings to take place using readily available virtual media, and I will also look into the possibility of making the classes I currently teach (Midrash, Mishna and TaNaCH/Bible) available on software such as “Zoom” to allow for an interactive experience.
– Paul Feinstein has graciously offered to chair a group of individuals who would make it a point to reach out to members of our congregation who are shut in or lack sufficient resources to take care of themselves adequately under this situation. The scope and task of this project will become clearer as the committee proceeds.
– Since we are probably going to have to cancel our Community Seder this year, Barb McGee who was planning to co-chair this with Judy Gunnar has stepped forward to find ways to provide Pesach supplies to those in our congregation who would face difficulties in this regard. This will be co-ordinated with Paul’s committee.
– I will be personally available by phone (707) 889-6905 if anyone could use my services for spiritual counseling. My email address is rabbi@bethamisr.org.
Beyond all these specific identified efforts, there is an important role we can all play.
– Above all, we can try to stay calm under what may well be, very trying circumstances. At the end of this message, I’m attaching an article that Tish Levee posted on her FaceBook page, that has some excellent suggestions.
– As a people, (since the time of Jacob our patriarch), we have a long history of having to deal with trying circumstances. As individuals, life has taught all of us that no-one escapes from adversity with its infinite iterations.
While every situation depends on its specific circumstances and individual personalities, I do believe there is an overall approach that you may find helpful.
The very fact that this situation has forced a radical change to our commonplace experiences can help us realize in a whole new way just how much we take for granted: just how precious every healthy moment turns out to be. How do we transform this realization into what we make of our lives?
Instead of a possible reaction of “Why me?” or “Why am I/we being ‘punished’?” I think a helpful spiritual response is, “What can I learn from this?” or “Is there anything I need to change about how I’m going about my life that can help me cope with this situation?”
We can use these and similar questions to seek deeper insight into ourselves and those around us: to gain depth and purpose: to “grow!”
– Reaching out to those who are disadvantaged in comparison to ourselves.
– Finding ways to connect or reconnect with those in our own circle: in our homes or with friends and family. We currently have at our disposal various media: telephone/cellphone, email, Skype/Facetime etc.
– Pursuing an interest that up to this point we never had the time for: reading, working on a craft, gardening, meditating or praying.
Speaking of which, I can only pray, that the disruption we are all experiencing can come to an end quickly; that the course of life will be restored so as to minimize the current level of suffering. In believing in a loving Creator, it gives me an underlying sense of confidence that the ultimate future remains bright, despite the present circumstances: that, in fact, we can all come out of this with a heightened sense of who we all are as human beings, created in the Divine image.
            Wishing you health and peace: success in all your endeavors,
                                                Mordecai
Article posted by Tish Levee by Melissa Kerr Winchell:
So #coronavirus #COVID19 quarantine is likely coming to Massachusetts. At least, I hope so.
Listen, friends, my son was in quarantine for an entire year while he recovered from chemo and a bone marrow transplant. Before we began, I asked the doctor not how to survive the isolation, but how to thrive in it.
Here’s what I learned during my 12 months of quarantine with him:
1. Protect the vulnerable even if doing so means isolating yourself and re-arranging your plans, expectations, and life. We quarantine for others, not ourselves. Quarantine is your contribution to the public good and an act of love.
2. People may die. All the families we befriended on the transplant’s isolated floor lost their children. All of them. If you are quarantined and have health, be grateful. It really, truly could be worse.
3. Quarantine is annoying & hard & exasperating…but remember: the best you can ever tell yourself, should you be someone who suffers from the virus, is that you quarantined the hell out of quarantine. No regrets. You did all you could. It’s the only peace there is.
4. Establish a routine early especially if you are isolated with a child(ren). Wake up, game time, craft time, reading…create structure within each day out of chores and meals and books and the ordinary. And if like me you’ll be working from home set hours/limits on that too. It makes time a friend and not an enemy.
5. Ask yourself who you want to be while quarantined? And work each day on being that person. Quarantine is an opportunity to start a new habit or return to a hobby or play more music in the house. Be determined to use the time to grow.
6. Turn ordinary into joy. A meal on the living room floor is a picnic. A walk in the backyard is a scientific exploration. A dive into the recycling bin is a craft or engineering feat.
7. Pay attention to your self-talk. Don’t tell yourself it’s never going to end and you’re going to die of boredom or claustrophobia. The circumstances are out of your control, but you can become aware of how you respond and make space to change.
8. Get outside. You can stay away from folks and still walk the dog, build a campfire, visit an urban garden, or sit on your front stoop. Fresh air and sunshine do wonders for perspective.
9. Make plans for the future. Quarantine won’t last forever no matter how often it feels that way. Dream about your next outing, vacation, or day in the office. Envisioning the future is essential to hope.
10. Lean into quarantine. The change could teach you something. What is it here to teach you? What can you learn? How can you carry the gifts of isolation-time with you into the rest of your life? Decide not to resist quarantine, but embrace it. I promise, you’ll be amazed at what you learn.