Rabbi’s Reflections – Saturday, March 14, 2020
Shabbat Shalom *|FNAME|*,
Monique Brumbaugh is the Executive Director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) of which Shomair is a member. Monique distributed this advisory letter late Wednesday night. I saw it early Thursday morning and put it in the RR for distribution Friday night. Here it is reprinted in full. Our congregational website syknox.org will have additional updates.
Some of this will work its way into the message on Shabbat. Without boring you to tears, the question remains, what is our relationship to death? Well, before I get into that (probably in the message on Shabbat), here is Monique’s letter to UMJC congregations.
Shalom Union Family,
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly, with major outbreaks in South Korea, Iran, Italy, Germany, France, and the West coast of the United States (the disease is now present in 35 states). This has already affected a UMJC congregation – Beit HaShofar in Seattle – which has suspended in person services and moved to virtual/streaming for the next few weeks. Today, the World Health Organization officially assigned this new disease pandemic status.
The Union is currently considering the impact of the coronavirus on our upcoming events, including the Young Professionals Retreat (currently scheduled for May 22-25 in North Carolina) and our Summer Family Conference (scheduled for mid-July in Columbus, Ohio). We are hopeful that we will be able to continue with our plans for joyful summer fellowship and festivities, but are keeping a close eye on the situation in the meantime. We will update you if there are any changes.
Two weeks ago, I sent preliminary guidance to the leaders of our member congregations. I’m writing today to provide updated guidance to members of the Messianic Jewish community across the globe.
1. PRAY! Pray for a working vaccine, for critical patients, and for overworked doctors and nurses.
We persist in our prayerful hope that the hard work of Israeli researchers will yield working vaccines. Let’s join in prayer that several of these vaccines will pass human trials, that they will be rapidly approved by the various government bureaucracies (like the FDA in the U.S.) and become available to elderly and immuno-compromised individuals across the globe.
Let’s also pray for the patients across the world who are reliant on ventilators while they recover, and for the many overworked doctors and nurses, that God would provide them with supernatural strength and protection from illness.
2. Wash those hands!
The best defense against respiratory viruses is frequent hand-washing with soap and water, but studies show that only 5% of people do it properly. Pick your favorite 20-second hand washing song, commit to singing it at the sink more frequently than you normally would, and become more conscious of how frequently you touch your face, mouth, and nose.
3. Practice “social distancing.”
Resist the urge to hug, kiss, and shake hands with your fellow congregants on Shabbat. Try a fist bump or another innovative greeting instead. During your Torah procession, refrain from touching or kissing the Torah scrolls. These new practices are sure to provide fodder for new jokes and light moments in your community.
This may feel awkward and overbearing at first – it’s helpful to remember that “keeping your distance” during a pandemic is not the same as panicking, hoarding supplies, or locking yourself into a proverbial bunker. Instead, it’s a way to show loving concern for the elderly members of your family and congregation, who would have a harder time getting through a bout of illness that you would.
4. Stay home if you’re sick.
The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea or diarrhea. What does this mean for you? If you have any flu-like symptoms at all (even a slight sniffle that feels like a common cold), stay home and call your doctor! Don’t “push through,” mask your symptoms with medicine, and bring your germs to school, work, or the synagogue. Again, staying home and seeking qualified medical advice is part of showing loving concern for the elderly people in your life.
5. Prepare for disruptions to your daily life.
Several universities and school districts across the United States and Western Europe are preparing to shut down or switch to virtual/online learning. Large corporations are sending their employees home to telecommute, as well. This may occur in your area in the next few days or weeks.
Resist the urge to stock up on bottled water, toilet paper, or bleach – rest assured that clean water will continue flowing to your pipes in the midst of an outbreak, and remember that soap and water are just as effective as harsh chemicals. Instead of hoarding unnecessary supplies, make sure that all of your family members’ medical prescriptions are filled, and you have enough non-perishable food in your home to sustain yourselves during a two-week quarantine.
6. Promote good hygiene in your synagogue.
Gather with your congregation’s leadership team and consider how you can promote elevated food safety during your weekly Oneg/Kiddush. Everyone preparing food should wash their hands thoroughly before engaging in meal prep. Wear disposable gloves – these will help you remember not to touch your face while serving in the kitchen. Consider temporarily serving only prepackaged foods rather than home-cooked meals. Everyone in the synagogue should wash their hands before serving themselves, to avoid spreading germs on food service utensils.
Promote cleanliness throughout the synagogue building by volunteering to clean and sanitize all Oneg tables, kitchen counters, handles, door knobs, and stairwell banisters in your congregation before and after your weekly service.
Thank you for joining us in prayer and calm preparation. May God bless you with wisdom, strength, and good health in this time of uncertainty.
Monique Brumbach, Executive Director
Pillar Eleven: The Kingdom is Expressed in Every Life Sphere – part 4
There it is, right in front of our eyes. Right in the middle of the “love chapter.” The “love chapter” is the nickname of 1 Corinthians 13. It hit me hard. I wasn’t looking for it, but there it is! 1 Corinthians 13:8a Love never fails! Everything else is going to burn.
2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything done on it shall be exposed.
Then Peter leads us to the logical conclusion… 2 Peter 3:11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what kind of people should you be? Live your lives in holiness and godliness.
We are seeking the kingdom of God… Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
My point is simply this…. We are seeking the manifestation of the kingdom of God and it is found in the love of God. When we love one another, we are manifesting His love for us. Love never fails. Even hope and faith will fail, but not love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 But now these three remain— faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.
How did love become the greatest? When Yeshua returns to establish the fullness of His kingdom, we will no longer need faith or hope, but we will always need love.
Matthew 6: 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Love from the heart! Shabbat Shalom.