As you know, the name of our shul means Lover of Peace. Now, when the threat of infection is all around us and fear grips us here in beautiful Lycoming County, it is difficult to be peaceful within ourselves.
As we prepare for the siddurim, we can take comfort from the Haggadah properly understood.
The story that comes immediately to mind is that of Rabbi Akivah. The Haggadah says Rabbi Akivah’s sedar lasted until dawn. His followers had to remind him the time had come to daven Shacharis.
Scholars explain to us the true meaning of that event noting Rabbi Akivah was helping Bar Kochba prepare for the Revolt— a Revolt that fought the Romans deadly attempt to destroy our people.
Now, the threat to our lives and tradition as G-d’s’ Chosen People is so small as to require a microscope to see it. It is so dangerous that by the time you read this 5,000 residents of the United States have already died and more are expected.
Following Rabbi Hillel’s first rehetorical question, If I am not for myself who is for me, we must all take care. Wash our hands. Avoid touching our face. Have safe distance between and among ourselves. Make sure to open the windows when the temperature permits. Fresh air and sunshine are the best disinfectant.
The second of Rabbi Hillel’s rhetorical questions:
If I am for myself alone, what good am I.
This means we must invent new ways of expressing our love for each other. We must make use of this time to learn Hebrew, read and appreciate the Tanach, study the history of Zionism and the State of Israel we so love. Stand up, sing Hatikvah, And pledge allegiance to the US flag.
Rabbi Hillel’s last rhetorical question, of course, is :
If not now, when.
Remember, we are today united under G-d’s glorious umbrella. It does not matter now in midst of this pandemic whether one’s faith is Judaism, Christianity, Muslim, Buddhist or nothing at all. Never since World War II when I served my country has our country faced as great a danger as it does now.
This Pesach we can learn from Rabbi Akivah’s diligence. The details of the threat may be different.The message is the same. With love and hope we will prevail as a people and as this wonderful United States which we all call home.
[Editorial note: Marvin Staiman is the spiritual leader of Williamsport PA’s Synagogue in Williamsport PA. founded as Orthodox, but because women and men sit together rather than being separated, we regard ourselves as traditional.Marvin’s grandfather Kalman was one of the founders of the synagogue in 1907.
Jean and Marvin have been married for 72 years. Jean continues to read avidly and is devoted to literature. The couple are the pillars of our synagogue.]