A Sabbath Message: Taking Care of Ourselves and Each Other

“Whoever saves a single life, saves the entire world.”  – The Talmud

Sabbath arrives again…our weekly opportunity provided by our tradition to take a break and a breath…strange perhaps, especially when our days seem to run together and feel so similar. As this pandemic continues, we grow weary, so it is clear that we need Shabbat more than ever. In fact, the Torah portion we read this week, Emor, from the Book of Leviticus, reminds us of the structure of our Jewish calendar – and that our days and seasons ebb and flow with the cycles of the moon, and with those cycles, come our holy festival days and weekly Sabbath rests. A built-in reminder from our tradition that our days are indeed not all the same.

Our weariness reminds us that while we have been so focused on our physical health during this crisis, our mental health must be a priority too...In fact, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, offering an important opportunity to take responsibility for our mental wellness, as well as for those in our lives - especially at a crucial time like this. Sometimes, it is the smallest gestures which have the largest impact – and often, we never know the huge difference it has made. Indeed, a simple phone call, conversation, or text message can sometimes be the lifeline someone needs.

CONNECTION and HOPE…for many, they are in short supply right now – and something we all have the capacity to provide. If you are thinking of reaching out to someone: DO IT. Be positive, but open to what they are feeling. Open-ended questions are a great way to get the conversation going – instead of “How are you?” try “Tell me how you are managing right now?” Remind them of the things that bring them joy – build on the resilience they have used before. And above all, urge them to realize that we are in this together – and THEY ARE NOT ALONE.

Last week, I spoke about choosing gratitude…For our community’s mental health, I offer a special gratitude. Jewish Family Service participates on the Community Wellness Team, an extraordinary partnership of 13 local agencies, and part of SB County’s Department of Behavioral Wellness. Formed after our natural disasters in 2017, this team is committed to enhancing the mental wellness of our community in response to crises or disasters – the most passionate, devoted group of professionals I have ever had the pleasure to work with. We collaborate on a daily basis – share ideas and impact the quality of services in our county. We have informed the media, crafted positive messaging you will see around town (see an example here) and interfaced with public officials and the community. I am honored and humbled to work with this team, doing such meaningful work behind the scenes – and to share my gratitude for this community collaboration with you.

With blessings for a peaceful Shabbat – as we remember that we are here for each other,

Ruth Steinberg, LCSW
Director, Jewish Family Service