Jewish Communal Traditions Under Quarantine
Make a shul at home. Give the sermon. Congratulations, you are now the rabbi!
During these times, we have to be creative with how we usually interact with one another. Much of Jewish life is based on community, and without it we are not the same. Nonetheless, we Jews are strong. We’ve been through difficult times before so we need to find a way to keep our religion and communities going.
Mitzvot are important, and we must still find ways to do as many of them as we can. Here are some Mitzvot and some of my ideas as to how to continue performing them even in quarantine.
Giving charity to poor people may have decreased because you can’t hand things to people in the street. Because no one is there. But you do have poor people living in your home. You. Or maybe your kids. They don’t have any money so why not give them a lesson in tzedakah by giving them money. But then show them how important the mitzvah is by asking them to give the money back to you so that you can pay for their school, food and home.
Shul is canceled because you can’t get the required 10 men together (i.e. minyan). But what if you are in the grocery store Kosher for Passover section in the supermarket? Mincha anybody?
Why not try hosting services in your home, by sitting all of the children in rows on Shabbat. Then make sure everybody is quiet and prays at the same time. To give it the shul feeling, of a Saturday morning, you can put up the sign that says “It is forbidden to talk during times of prayer.” Make sure the services last for at least three hours. The kids will love this.
The Rabbi’s Sermon
You will miss the rabbi’s sermon. Give over thoughts on the Torah portion and add in a message at the end that reflects everything everybody in the family has done wrong. Focus on the lack of assistance you’ve received cleaning the house for Passover.
Whatever you would eat for Shabbat lunch, eat it in the kitchen, while standing. To give the full feel of being at shul, and people not moving from the Kiddush table, stand right by the cholent and don’t let anybody else get any.
Don’t worry. Nothing can stop a fundraiser. Not even the inability to contact you. The federation can still have the dinner. They will still have you pay the five hundred dollars for the plate of schnitzel you make for yourself at home. The fact that you paid three dollars for the schnitzel and to watch the Zoom webinar has you wondering how much they’ve been paying the caterer for these dinners over the years. Also, you would think you could get out of this without speeches, but somehow you’re still going to be home late.
Save on the hall and don’t invite everybody you know. Get married when you should, right after the engagement in a home you bought for the price of renting the hall. Now you don’t have to waste your time trying to figure out who sits with the Schwartz family. That will cut down the wedding planning by three months.
Wait. Better idea. Invite everybody. You already know they can’t come. This way, they think you like them, and they will feel like they must give you a present. Be sure to send them the information for the registry, this way, you can still practice the tradition of only inviting people to your wedding so that you can get the dishwasher you wanted.
Honoring Thy Parents
This is much easier to do when you can’t see each other. What’s that? Some doctors suggest coronavirus can be transmitted through the phone lines? Sorry, Mom and Dad, can’t talk. This is for your own good.
Running into the other members of the shul while shopping is one of the most important Jewish traditions. Picking up milk is a Jewish ritual, an opportunity to get all of the latest community news including an update about Hindy’s crazy kids. So sad.
Clothing stores are closed but fortunately Costco isn’t. The other day, I bought a Kirkland jacket and some peanuts. It’s not a stylish brand name but it came with a nosh. It was embarrassing to have to tell my friends that I got a great deal on my new coat, as it came with fifty percent off on mixed nuts.
Visiting the Sick
Right now we can’t do the great mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick. However, many doctors say we can assume that many of us are sick we’re just asymptomatic. So why not try visiting another family member in the house. If you have teenagers, knock on their door, pick the lock and take off their head phones, and tell them how much you hope they have a full healing from their sickness.
The new method of Judaism by webinar can be tough, but many new beautiful traditions are beginning. I myself have decided to lose some weight because the webcam puts on a good fifteen pounds. I just pray we will all be able to celebrate Pesach together again in shul so that we can all find out who ended their Seder the latest.