PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – June 2020
Wearing a mask when we go out is not a political statement. It is not an infringement on our individual rights, or an imposition by a tyrannical government. It is a mitzvah. It is a double-mitzvah in a way, because by wearing a mask when we are around others, we are not only doing pikuach nefesh. protecting life by guarding against inadvertently infecting others, endangering their lives even if it does little to protect us, but we are doing tikkun olam, repairing the world by doing our part in controlling and eventually conquering the coronavirus
What does it say to others when you wear a mask in public? It says you care about someone other than yourself. You care about your neighbors. You care about perfect strangers. You care about the clerks at the grocery store. And you care about the people they all know.
I came across a brucha for donning a face mask, which I have reproduced in this column. In Judaism is seems there is a blessing for everything. In Fiddler on the Roof, the rabbi is asked “Is there a proper blessing for the tsar?” The rabbi responds “A blessing for the tsar?” Of course . . . May God bless and keep the tsar . . . far away from us!”
Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, in his Blog for Tikkun HaYam (https://www.repairthesea.org/single-post/2016/07/01/A-Fiddler-on-the-Roof) tells us “The purpose of a blessing is to raise our consciousness to a higher level. To take those actions and experiences which every living creature has (and usually takes for granted) and raise them to a level of holiness.” Rabbi Mark’s teaching on the subject takes us though increasing the levels of holiness associated with eating a meal. The point is that we can raise the meaning and spirituality of mundane tasks by stopping to think about our actions, and a brucha is one way to help us do that.
We are living in tense and difficult times. Many of us are on edge out of anxiety of the illness, some because of worry about finances, others are upset over the disruption of what was once our “normal” lives. When we stop and say a brucha or even just to give a thought about why we wear a mask outside of the home, the act becomes less of a requirement and more of an opportunity. We are making the world a better place and taking care of one another.
There are other ways we can express our care for others during this stressful times. The simple act of saying thank you to the grocery clerk is one. Diane is particularly good at looking at the name tag of store employees and thanking them by name (and I am working on getting better at that). On social media, I see local people sharing backyard produce, offering to shop for others, even sharing which market has what in stock.
In this time of affliction, there is so much each of us can do protect and sustain life, to increase holiness, and to repair the world. We only need to open our eyes and hearts!
IRA L. GOLDSTEIN, President