I’m sitting at my computer right now rushing through this blog post before my daughter wakes up from her nap. I am feeling the pressure! My routine is gone for the time being. My way of doing most things has suddenly changed. The future is unknown. I’m trying to work from home, while trying to take care of my small children, while trying to take care of my spouse, while trying to take care of my community, while trying to take care of myself. . .(my head is spinning just typing this. How about yours?) I know I am lucky. My life has been privileged and I have never felt this degree of chaos before, but as the world continues to feel more and more upside down, I’m looking for comfort.
I have been finding that comfort the last few days in knowing that though all of this is new for me, it is not new for the Jewish people. Though our people have been through a few crises, I’ve been thinking particularly about the destruction of the Second Temple lately.
Once upon a history of our people the Temple in Jerusalem was a central meeting place between Israelites and God, and between Israelites and Israelites too. It was vital to the social structure and the economy of the region until it was destroyed along with the city of Jerusalem in 70 CE. I imagine that my ancient ancestors must have felt a more extreme version of what I’ve been feeling lately, all that chaos and upside down world stuff, and in thinking about them I have found three valuable lessons.
- It is ok to mourn for what we’ve suddenly lost. Whether we have lost income, stability, or if you are working from home with small children – our sanity, we have all lost something. The ancients felt this too! Psalm 137 begins, “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.” Eicha (aka Lamentations), is an entire book of poetry mourning the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. I doubt anyone will be reading my personal lamentations that long from now, but I’m taking the time to feel it and write it and acknowledge in my own way that the world feels sad and scary right now.
- We will adapt. From sacrificial cult centered in Jerusalem, our people eventually moved on to communal prayer and local synagogues with leaders we call rabbis. Worship and community and lives changed and survived then and it all will again. It is not lost on me however that animal sacrifice didn’t just suddenly become a smaller and localized thing, that the priestly class didn’t survive in their ancient functions, but something new and necessary and valuable came out of it. I for one am thrilled that connection to God no longer entails pilgrimage and livestock! I am sure that our current situation will force valuable innovation. I feel confident that the answer is not to simply take everything we did last week and put it on the internet, but I have no doubt that we will figure our new ways together!
- Adaptation will take time. Eventually synagogues and communal prayer won out as the central aspects of Judaism. Prayer ideas and order came first, then the set words, then the prayer books that hold them, but none of that happened immediately. Today is day three of staying home from school and I am amazed at what the MJDS community has been able to put in place already. . . and I am working hard to remember that what we start with likely won’t be what we end up with, what we need today might not be what we need next week and that the best solution isn’t usually the first one. We will try a few things. We attempt a few others. We will adapt over the next few weeks and even months if that is what we’re in for. We don’t have to be fully in and adapted and ready to go today. Change takes time and right now we have to be patient with ourselves and those around us and we figure it out together.
This is some of where I’m finding comfort right now. Where are you finding yours?