Mar 20, 2020
Judith Talesnick

Shabbat In The Time of Coronavirus

Judith Talesnick reflects on Shabbat in the time of Coronavirus.

I have a terrible sense of time. I always have. I used to think that anything could be done in 5 minutes. I was wrong. I have worked hard throughout my adult life to curb that natural instinct and deepen my appreciation for the nature of time (abstractly) and it’s concrete characteristics. For example - you can’t drive from White Plains to Riverdale in 15 minutes. Even if you wish very hard, you simply can’t bend time that way.

In this new “Corona” normal, people have been casually referencing their own loosening grip on time. Things moving too fast. Days merging one in to the next. “Did I send you that email yesterday or on Monday?”

It is ironic that this Shabbat, Shabbat HaChodesh, we read Exodus 12:1-20 in which there are so many parallels to our current experience and also some of our anxieties.

  1. The New month – God announces to Moses and Aaron that they will now count time by months. The Children of Israel, who are still slaves, will soon be in charge of their own time.

In this moment, 2020, people do not feel in control of much, certainly not time. As we enter shabbat, I’m hoping to savor the time that has fewer demands and together with my loved ones, take a little control, create this sanctuary  in time.

  1. The Passover offering in Egypt – this portion also outlines the first Passover celebration. As we look toward Pesah, I am feeling an overwhelming longing for the power of our rituals, family traditions, the familiarity of Pesah plates, afikomen bags from preschool days and being with loved ones (whether family or dear friends). In the Torah, each household was to have its own offering with the doorpost marked by blood. As we stay housebound, we will certainly have Passover in our own homes; but, some of us will be missing. As we continue to pray that this isolation keeps us all safe there is sadness that some people will be alone for seder and those with their families will have empty seats. It is hard to think about how to acknowledge that loss, keep it in perspective and find Corona appropriate ways to celebrate this year.
  2. Ethical behavior – The commands around the Passover offering provide a guide for ethical eating, ethical shopping, use of resources and ways to care for and include others. As some people are already under Shelter in Place orders and others fear its arrival, I am hoping that before shopping, people will reflect on the command to have enough food for those in your home. Not too much and not too little. If you find yourself buying too much, think about how you can share it with someone else.

Wishing everyone a Shabbat filled with calm and enough togetherness to feel supported.

Judith Talesnick is the Director of Professional Learning and Growth for The Jewish Education Project. 

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