Posts tagged " community "

Masked Strangers: a COVID Cost

July 24th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 36 comments

Going to the supermarket, library or store used to be a social activity. I may not have known anyone but, invariably, I chatted with those around me. Perhaps we discussed whether this year’s corn was sweet or if we should wait to buy, maybe we bonded for a few fleeting moments over a shared delight in an author, or we might have exchanged eyeball rolls at the annoyance of a computer glitch that delayed checkout. These transient interactions acknowledged a human fellowship.

Now, those around me view me not as a source of information and camaraderie but as a threat. How dare you come near me while I am picking out peaches? Are you going to make me sick? If there are smiles, one cannot see them. I sometimes don’t even recognize the masked face of those I do know; I certainly don’t relate to strangers.

What a loss! This week, I was remembering a Musing I wrote eight years ago that highlighted how severely damaging it is when something severs human relationships. Whether casual, neighborly connections get cut or if deeper and more intense connections between friends and family are hurt, the results for society are deadly serious.

Here is some of what I wrote then that is even more applicable today.

My husband and I were privileged to attend a siyum at our daughter and son-in-law’s house. A siyum marks the conclusion of learning a specific portion of God’s word. In this case, our grandson, Yosef, completed his very first section of the Mishnah—a compilation of ancient Jewish wisdom. Learning Mishnah marks a growth in maturity of thought and is a portal to deeper understanding. To mark the event, Yosef’s parents invited his teacher to a celebratory dinner.

What made this event particularly special is that we have known the young man who teaches Yosef since he was born. We met his parents when, as singles, they began attending my husband’s Torah classes. We rejoiced at their wedding; our families have shared many joyous and some sad times together as the teacher/student relationship evolved into one of close friendship. When our children were looking for a Torah teacher for Yosef, our friends’ oldest child was a natural choice.

When society functions successfully, this is how life works. People get to know, care for and trust each other. They interact in small family units, extended units of family and friends, and larger units like synagogue, church or business networks. When times are good they share Fourth of July barbecues, pick up groceries for each other and exchange recipes and books. In a time of need, such as illness, losing a job or a natural disaster like a hurricane, they support each other, providing not only physical assistance but also loving comfort.

Inevitably, as the government grows ever-bigger, family and friendship ties shrink. The more an impersonal government provides, the less people rely on each other. The less people rely on each other, the more they generally need government support. As taxes increase to provide more necessities and entitlements it forces more people to work longer hours, leaving them less time for strengthening ties to family and friends. When government is the first resource rather than the last one, forming relationships becomes optional and temporary. “What can you do for me” associations replace the traditional connections that are a vital, necessary part of successful living.

In the final analysis, the government cannot supply love, affection, compassion or charity. It can provide money and services, but not heart. It can provide a monthly check but it strips dignity. It can label you as needy but not recognize and encourage the sparks of your soul that turn you into a giver rather than a taker. It can fool you into thinking that you are self-sufficient, while preventing you from forming networks of community and recognizing that there is no such thing as self-sufficiency. Current society is devolving so that people relate more to the government than to each other. The sad results are poorer and more bitter lives.

Yosef’s teacher and his wife brought their newborn daughter to the siyum. Since my husband’s late parents were also part of the web of connection with our students and friends, four generations were spiritually present at the celebration. That kind of safety net cannot be equaled no matter how many billions of dollars a government spends.

What happens when society collapses?
What happens before society collapses?

The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah

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Is praying in a group better than praying alone?

January 7th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

What does the Bible say about group prayer?
Is it more powerful than individual prayer?

∼ Kenda S.

Answer:

Dear Kenda,

You are asking a question that may be particularly apt for our times when technology allows us to access other people without having to leave our homes. Many church services are accessible online and you can easily bring church to you rather than going to a building.

(more…)

Passover – Sex is Everybody’s Business

January 21st, 2008 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Passover – Sex is Everybody’s Business
By Rabbi Daniel Lapin

The five books of Moses are divided up into fifty-four portions. Every Sabbath a different portion is read so that, taking into account leap years and various other considerations of the calendar, the entire Torah is completed every year. We are currently in the beginning of the book of Exodus, the portions dealing with the Children of Israel leaving Egypt and the holiday of Passover. This portion teaches us valuable lessons about family and society.

For centuries America has recognized that sex is everybody’s business. The community does care about what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. First Roman law, then English law, and finally American law prohibited polygamy, incest, and, until recently, adultery. These cultures all drew heavily on the Torah which was the first inkling mankind received that regulation of these seemingly private matters helped preserve society. These laws reflected our conviction that we all have a say in what two of our fellow citizens might be doing in the privacy of their bedroom. Even today, on some deep level, we still suspect that sex is everybody’s business. That may be why most of us notify our friends of our intention to mate by announcing our engagements well in advance of the wedding night.

Yet during the past four decades or so, we have uncritically embraced the revolutionary idea that sex is nobody else’s business. Fortunately, the holiday of Passover reminds us that sex is indeed everybody’s business. Read More…

Northwest Storm

December 18th, 2006 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

I am trying to count my blessings. We’re all in good health; we have warm clothing to wear, a gas stove which lets us have hot food, and a house that wasn’t damaged. The temperature hasn’t dipped too low and we have friends with whom we’ve been sharing food and companionship.

But while I’m aware of all those things, I am also beginning to feel tired of being cold, of having to find a Starbucks or Tullys in order to work, and simply of life being disrupted from its normal flow. Instead of breakfast taking the one minute and twenty-eight seconds to prepare as it usually does in the microwave – during which time I bring in the Wall Street Journal and start unloading the dishwasher – I’ve been spending half an hour cooking grilled cheese sandwiches and omelets on the stove. (The fact that we can still use our eggs and cheese gives you some idea of the temperature in the house) Reading for a few minutes before falling asleep has turned into a chore with trying to balance a flashlight and turn pages without taking my hand out from beneath the blanket. Getting dressed in the morning has become less a matter of dressing to suit a mood and the day’s activities, and more of trying to figure out how many shirts and sweaters will fit under my coat. And not being able to do laundry has less the feel of a vacation and more of a punishment. While I’m grateful for my friend Julie’s invitation to shower at her (powered) apartment, and I took her up on her offer, it meant that taking a shower became an afternoon’s activity.

I’m ready for a return to normal after our storm. And vividly aware of how fortunate we are to live in a time and place where the normal condition of life is safe and warm, and where even when a relatively major disruption takes place, as it did for us last Thursday, our community is filled with honest, caring people who band together to make an unpleasant situation less so.

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