Practice: Focus on becoming a vector of blessing rather than a vector of disease. The next time you wash your hands, instead of singing the abc song or something else to make sure you spend long enough scrubbing, do this instead: Call to mind an act of kindness, hesed, you were offered today. Think about it for a moment, how it felt, who the person was. Then think of a kindness you can offer to someone else between now and the next time you wash.
Further thought: Everyone is talking right now about Covid-19. We are following the disease and its spread in an unprecedented manner. Such coverage awakens caution which can quickly become fear. I worry about three groups: our elderly, most at risk for the disease, our children, least able to understand what is happening around them, and medical professionals and first responders.
We need to be thoughtful and caring of each group. We want to slow the spread of the disease by handwashing, by refraining from hugs and hand shakes, and avoiding as much as possible touching our faces. Typically, the virus spreads by touching something contaminated and then touching your face where it can enter the body. It is an act of kindness, hesed, towards those most at risk and to medical professionals to slow the spread so that there are sufficient resources to care for those who are ill. We are partners with God in bringing healing into the world.
Children know this is going on. They are hearing all the adults and even their friends at school talking about it. We need to reassure them. Less than 2% of all cases involve under 20s. I was visiting some cousins, aged 8, 11, and 13, this week in Washington DC. When I told them that people under 20 aren’t getting sick, they looked relieved. The next night at dinner their parents told me they hadn’t thought about reassuring their children. They were grateful that I had shared this information because their children remembered it, shared it with their friends, and clearly felt safer.
We also need to plan. Enough people may become ill that it overwhelms our care givers. There may be a need to help and we will wait and see. We as an institution will keep following CDC and local health guidelines. I also suggest thinking through how we can be in touch with our community to offer support as needed. It may be as simple as an older person with the disease needing help getting groceries and aspirin. It may be as simple as reassuring people that they are part of a network that cares for them.
We cannot let ourselves be overwhelmed by fear. This virus has quickly spread across the world. I challenge us to act with such kindness and blessing towards others, encouraging them to do the same, so that it too spreads over the whole world. Imagine: we can be ground zero for kindness and blessing.
I wish everyone a Shabbat of rest and healing.
Rabbi David Booth