Early each Sunday Morning, long before the sun is up, my first thought is, "What will I write about this week?". With the news coming so fast that you feel like you are drinking from a firehose...the options are many. I could write about the absurd reality of a government that fails to govern. I could write about the wishful thinking of over 70 million Americans who believe their "dear leader" and say the election was stolen and that the president will prevail. I could write about the failure of Democrats, in my home state of Iowa, to connect with the voters here. There is much to consider. But, let's start with this....
The Dead and Dying
In my career as a Jewish spiritual leader and the former president of what was Iowa's largest continuing care community I have been at the bedside of countless of people who are dying. On a very personal level, I was there, attempting CPR on my Father z"l as he died. I was there, in my home years later, watching my Mother z"l slip away and telling her what a beautiful First Day of Spring it was. It was awesome and it was awful. But, I was there.
Today, with the death toll in the United States rising, families are not there to say their goodbyes. If lucky, they may have had some brave and dedicated health care worker hold up a phone or a tablet so they might, in a virtual way, be there. The toll on humanity is like nothing we have witnessed in our lifetime. The dead are...dead. The living are traumatized.
Numbers, it would seem, mean nothing. But as the pandemic rages more and more of us are coming face to face with the reality that a person we know and love will soon be gasping for air.
While Nero fiddles we debate wearing masks. We debate closing up shop. We debate how many can be together. Is it 25, 20 or in the words of Abraham as he attempted to defend the people of Sodom, "What if twenty (righteous people) would be found there?' And He said, "I will not destroy on account of the twenty." So he said, "Let not my Lord be annoyed and I will speak but this once: What if ten would be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy on account of the ten." (Gen. 18:31-32)
What We Should Do
We should stop playing with death. Look, the reality is that we can beat this and save our economy. Because, my friends COVID19 is the economy. As the weeks slip by and more people become infected and die we will be forced into action. We should take the offensive.
Money right now is...cheap. The Fed has said they will keep interest rates at near zero. Now is the time for Congress to get their head out of their ass and pass a massive aid package that rescues small businesses, bars, restaurants, nursing homes, schools, manufacturing facilities, food processing centers. Keep their employees whole and then...stay home. Stay home until there is a proven vaccine. We don't need but ten righteous United States Senators to make this happen.
However power and politics are far more important than people. That is why, if you are reading this, click these two links and send some cash to our friends in Georgia. Rev. Raphael Warnock is right here. And, Jon Ossoff is right here. I've talked to my friends in Georgia and what they need is money. The two GOP senators are lying to the electorate. They care nothing about the people. They, at every turn, are instilling fear with profound lies about the two men who can fight for the people of the United States. It has come to this.
Right now...do it. I get it. We've been through a bruising election and here in Iowa we have failed the future. But we can bend the specter of death and save our people. It is that...critical. You can give to Rev. Warnock here. And you can give to Jon Ossoff here. If every Democrat in Iowa puts up $25 and we do that in Missouri and Minnesota and in Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania we can save humanity. We just need time...and time is running out.
Last week as I was preparing my writing about the Torah Portion for my congregation, Adas Israel, I learned the tragic news of the death of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks the former Chief Rabbi (22 years) of Great Britain. He was 72. He died on Saturday the 7th of November (Shabbat) of cancer. The fact that I learned about his death days later is an embarrassment. You see, I was preoccupied with the election. I was preoccupied with the pandemic. I was preoccupied with my job. I was preoccupied about a worn out alternator on my vehicle. I was not paying attention.
Why is this such a big deal? Let me tell you a story:
Rabbi Sacks was an amazing man rooted in Modern Orthodoxy. He traveled all the time...especially among the colleges and universities of the world...explaining in very profound ways...the meaning of faith and of Judaism. He was a person who wrote and spoke about the goodness of religion be it his or others.
I was honored, in 2008 to have Shabbat dinner with Rabbi Sacks in Israel. We were in a room with 200+ other Orthodox men and women and, rather than sitting at the "head table", he decided to sit among the people. Fate stepped in and he sat at our table. I remember he was intently interested in our personal stories...both secular and religious. I didn't know much about him at the time. And when it was his turn at the podium he gave a powerful and insightful address of hope and faith. I was taken back.
For years I would read his works and tailor my sermons or lectures with bits that I gleaned from this great person. But, in the past several months, I became preoccupied with other things and so, to my embarrassment, I did not know of this great loss.
There is a lesson here. We can spend our time listening to noise or we can spend our time working to preserve hope and love and kindness. This doesn't mean that I don't cringe at the failures of our political or religious leaders. It simply means that we must fight harder. We must pay attention. We must, as we are told, "Love the stranger in your midst for you too were once a stranger..."
Thanks for reading.