Ups and Downs & Virtual Hands

This last week brought some lighter moments. Our daughter Julie had her 12th birthday. It was special enough, I suppose, because it was her first 'lockdown' birthday (and let's hope her last), but we tried to make it special in another way.  Peter contacted Flemish TV and we made sure the kids were watching 'Blijf in uw kot' on the morning of her birthday.  Suddenly the TV was talking to Julie, inviting her downstairs to the front door, where her best girlfriends and our wonderful neighbours had gathered in large but socially distanced numbers to sing her happy birthday (see photo).  She was gobsmacked - and is still on a cloud several days later. Lockdown gave her, and us, a special moment we will remember forever. 

Now that most of us are 'living' at least part of our lives online, the social media have become a source of humour - keeping us all sane - and ideas for practical spirituality. We see new opportunities to heal our world by reaching out and connecting, with new IJC initiatives being fine-tuned as I write. 

But last week also brought some heavier moments. The probable extension of the lockdown in Belgium, news broadcasts trying to seek a balance between desperate reality and thin hope and not always succeeding; and then news that some of our own members and former members and their families have been directly affected by Covid-19. So far, the consequences have not been serious - milder symptoms leading to full recovery - but there can be little doubt that there's a dark cloud hovering over us, a sadness and anxiety all of us must acknowledge. 

As Jews we seek solace in our tradition and its words. Here are some words from the Babylonian Talmud: "Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba fell ill and Rabbi Johanan went in to visit him. He said to him: 'Are your sufferings welcome to you?' He replied: 'Neither they nor their reward." He said to him: 'Give me your hand.' He gave him his hand and he raised him" (Brachot 5b).

We can't 'go in' to visit the sick, but we can keep extending our virtual hands and raising one another.

April 5, 2020
Brian Doyle
IJC Rabbinical Intern