Posted on October 16, 2020
From the Rabbi’s Desk
Parashat Beresheet 5781
The first thing that is described in the Torah as kadosh, holy, is not a place or a part of nature or an item. It is a time: the 7th day, Shabbat. Gen. 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, ויקדש אותו.
The first thing that God declares לא טוב, not good, is not a place or a part of nature or, for that matter, a time. The first thing that God declares לא טוב, not good, is social isolation. God looks at the adam that God had created and says: lo tov, “לא טוב היות האדם לבדו” “it is not good for the adam to be alone.” Gen. 2:18.
Studies show that feelings of lonesomeness are a significant health risk. One study says that loneliness and social isolation are as damaging to health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day! And the forced separation of this time period is making this issue all the more acute. I have been thinking of ways that we as a Temple community can help mitigate some of the feelings of social isolation that we all have.
In the Talmud, we hear about Rabbi Yohanan and Resh Lakish who were study partners and close friends. After Resh Lakish died, Rabbi Yohanan was inconsolable. His friends brought him another great mind to be his new study partner. Rabbi Eliezer ben Padat studied with Rabbi Yohanan and when Rabbi Yohanan suggested ideas, Rabbi Eliezer ben Padat backed him up. After a few days, Rabbi Yohanan could not stand it anymore and exploded: “Are you like Resh Lakish? “When I would suggest something to Resh Lakish he would challenge me with 24 objections, and I would answer him with 24 answers, which led to a fuller understanding of the law. And you say, ‘there is a beraita that supports you?!’ Do I not already know how good my belief is?!”
One thing we can do as a congregation is to expose each other to different ideas, different ways of looking at things, different perspectives. Sometimes that will be frustrating and even infuriating. And sometimes it will be stimulating and challenging and rewarding. But it will always be engaging. Join us, for example, for the monthly Wednesday evening adult education sessions that are beginning this week. I anticipate many differences of opinion!
The flip side of this is that engaging with the temple community will allow us to connect with others who share [many of] our concerns, our values and our priorities. It is good to interact with people who ask similar questions, who are interested in similar things, and who share similar problems. There are often discussions before and after Zoom services and meetings. We can set up specific discussions and meetings as well. And we will be having a variety of meet and greet events, specifically for social interaction.
When you are feeling lonely, consider picking up the phone and calling someone else who you think might also be lonely. (Actually, you can make calls even when you are not feeling lonely.) Let me know if you would like to be on someone’s list of regular calls or if you know someone that you think should be on such a list. Autumn is in full color. Outdoor, socially distanced visits in person are also a possibility.
If you are having a hard time accessing our Zoom offerings or our Live Stream services, or know of someone who is, please let me or someone on the mitzvah committee know. We are working on assists.
Lo tov “לא טוב היות האדם לבדו” Social isolation is not good. We at Temple Israel can help.
B’vrakhah, Rabbi Spitzer
Rabbi Miriam T. Spitzer