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Rabbi Stiefel's Monthly Article

Dear Friends,

             "Out of an abundance of caution." This phrase has been ringing in my ears the past few days. All the measures we are taking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are out of an abundance of caution. Abundance. Shefa in Hebrew. When I think of abundance, I picture my garden overflowing with tomatoes and cucumbers. I think of blessings, such as the words, "my cup overflows." I think of an abundance of riches and being able to give tzedakah to those who have less than I do. I don't think of caution when I think of having an abundance.
            We are all in the midst of adjusting day by day to being abundantly cautious. Our Mayim Rabim community, known for its heimish (Yiddish for home-like) atmosphere, is in the midst of transforming our closeness without the benefit of being face-to face. Some of our classes will be available by Zoom or phone, abbreviated services through conference calls, and sadly, some gatherings, such as our second night Seder, will be cancelled. We will remain connected and each Mayim Rabim member will be receiving a "check-in" phone call from another member. Social distancing need not mean social isolation and we want to ensure each member knows that they are thought of and cared for even when it cannot be in person.
            Just as we need to have abundant caution because of pikuach nefesh ---Hebrew for the highest mitzvah, that of saving a life --- we need to also have an abundance of compassion. Compassion for those who are vulnerable, sick or lonely; for those who will struggle financially due to loss of income; and for ourselves who are not used to remaining home for long stretches of time. Simply put, be kind  -- to others and to ourselves. Readjusting our plans for the next weeks and even months will take a toll. We will experience and grieve both little and greater losses of what we had taken for granted for how our lives would unfold.  We face the unknown and the reality of not knowing how long this will last.
             Please take measures against the potential danger that is in our midst as our health is of utmost importance. (Continue to wash your hands!) Please also take advantage of the possible opportunities this moment presents. I invite you to plumb the days and weeks ahead for the gifts they offer. For example, this may mean pulling off the shelf that book you've always said you would read if only you had more time, taking extended time to be out in nature, cooking a new Jewish recipe or reaching out to those you have not been in touch with for a while. Most of all, try to feel gratitude for all that is available, rather than focusing on the restrictions.
            Especially in times like these, I remain available for each of you.  Choose your modality: phone, email, Facetime, WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype and/or Zoom. If video/social media options make you nervous or are foreign to you, please use the phone. For those who wish to become more tech-savvy, we have members of Mayim Rabim available to help.
            Sending blessings to all as we make this journey through such uncertain times together.
                                                           
                                                                 Rabbi Sharon Stiefel