A Sabbath Message: Staying the Course

“Community is society with a human facethe place where we know we’re not alone.”

— Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Former Chief Rabbi of the UK and current Member of Parliament

For this first Sabbath following Passover, I reflect on the power of community… Many of us have now experienced our first online Passover holiday, complete with “Zeders,” as I now will always call them. Definitely not the same, but we were together. While it was a loss not to sing at the same time as my cantorial sister, I was able to see the faces of my children from across the country around their own festive tables. We were even able to cook my mother’s chicken soup recipe together across the miles over Zoom in 5 different households simultaneously – I’m certain their Savta (Grandma) was smiling from above.

Originally, Passover marked the first of the Jewish year, a new beginning…And, indeed, when our ancestors emerged from their ordeal on the other side of the Red Sea, having been redeemed from their enemy, they were born a new people—having entered the water as individuals, they emerged as one Jewish Community, stronger together. This strength saw them through the challenging times ahead—and indeed through the ages until today. Throughout history, our people have been scattered, but always connected to a larger purpose, which has helped us to survive. Even in the darkest days of our history we knew there would be light.

And so, as we approach the end of the first month of this crisis, we commit ourselves as a community to “stay the course,” even with the challenges it brings…And here, for a few tips, I bring in an expert. Natan Sharansky is a well-known Israeli politician, human rights activist, and author, and a former Soviet Refusenik who spent 9 years in a Soviet prison in the 1970’s, often in solitary confinement. Although his experience was very different from what we are going through now, in a recent interview in Moment Magazine, he shared how some wisdom he gained then can be applied to the current reality, especially with these 3 lessons: 

  1. Remind yourself again and again why you are there. You are part of something bigger, everyone has a role to play—whether you are a First Responder or sheltering in place at home. Everything depends upon your behavior!
  2. Do not pin your hopes on things beyond your control. This will lead to despair. Create your own world which depends upon what you CAN control. Do not focus on what you cannot do, but upon what you can achieve.

Wishing you laughter and song…even now…on this Sabbath to come,

Ruth Dubin Steinberg, LCSW, MAJCS
Director, Jewish Family Service