Our Torah portion this week opens with a warning to the Kohane Gadol, Aaron, that there are times when he should refrain from entering the holy place (his shul) because of danger to his health (who knew?). Curiously, the Torah states that there are times when Aaron shouldn’t enter but fails to state what time he may enter. Instead, the Torah describes the steps Aaron must take in order to enter safely (this involves a great deal of washing up). It seems what’s important is not knowing when we may enter a holy place, but to prepare to enter it properly. That’s what’s going on now – we’re in a time when congregating in the synagogue is unsafe, but we’re diligently preparing for when we can start going back.
One way of preparing is by maintaining our social bonds. Online platforms may not be ideal, but with effort we can make good use of them. Let’s start some book clubs. Brown University has generously made available an attractive library of titles of Jewish interest. Check these out: https://www.brown.edu/academics/judaic-studies/monograph/bjs-open-access-books
Another idea would be to watch a TV series together and meet via Zoom to discuss. Netflix is presently featuring a number of shows of Jewish interest. Here are but a few: Unorthodox, Fauda, The Spy, Red Sea Diving Resort, One of Us, and Shtisel. I’ve seen parts of the first three on my list. Unorthodox is about a young woman leaving a hasidic community, told from her point of view. Fauda is about a team of undercover Israeli agents in Palestinian areas (warning: it’s graphically violent), and The Spy is about Eli Cohen (if you don’t know this amazing story, watching is a must see).
Let us know if you want help organizing a group. Have additional ideas to propose? Let me know. Stay safe, we’ll get through this.