In Our Virtual Mishkan, splansky

The Things We Do for Love

I write to you from the border crossing into the U.S. Because Adam, our boys, and I are all dual citizens we are able to travel back and forth to see our families. Every summer grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews meet on a quiet beach on the Rhode Island shore for a week of reunion. Yes, we will be very careful and stay very close to home. Everyone has been successfully tested and given the green light for three generations of doctor-approved hugs. I can’t wait.

It wasn’t easy to plan, but the motivation was clear. We haven’t seen one another since Jesse’s Bar Mitzvah in the fall. And that’s too long. We will, of course, have to self-quarantine for two weeks when we return to Toronto. Working from my home office (a.k.a. my Dining Room table) has become “the new normal.” We fully recognize our privileges of freedom of movement, access to healthcare, and the ability to safely isolate. We are grateful and do not take these for granted.

In Moses’ final address to the people before they cross over the Jordan River border into Israel, he warned against the risky behaviours of the idolators living in the land of their ancestors. In Parashat Re’eh Moses instructs how to isolate from them, so as not to be contaminated. Strict protocols about how to eat and how to sanctify time are delineated in order to prepare for life’s next chapter of exposure. Moses reminds the people of what is at the centre — core values, core beliefs, core identity – so they are ready to weigh out the risks and face the future with courage, if not confidence.

As we anticipate crossing the threshold into a new year, I hear many families debating what to do. Do we return to the city or stay at the cottage? Do we return to our workplaces or request working from a distance? Do children return to school on-site or learn only from home? Some are making lists of pros and cons. Others are suffering real stress over the decision-making process. We can take direction from our parasha. It is clarifying to come back to the centre. It is discerning to articulate for ourselves what are the core values, the core beliefs, the core identities. Sometimes they do compete with one another, but more often than not, a decision emerges, and the risks are put into perspective, so we can face the future with courage, if not confidence.

This work of self-evaluation and course-charting is what the month of Ellul is for. Beginning this Thursday morning, we will hear the daily shofar blast. May we hear its call back to the centre, back to the core of who we are and who we can yet become. May the sound of the shofar shake us from complacency and awaken in each of us newfound courage and commitment, even confidence.

Shabbat Shalom.

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