One of my favorite Yiddish expressions is “Mitten d’rinen!” roughly translated as “In the middle of everything!” Two examples:
You finally settle down in the bathtub after a long arduous day and the doorbell rings! “Mitten d’rinen!”
It is some long-lost relative who happens to drop in unexpectedly; or you are on an important business call and a friend
beeps in on your cell phone who just has to ask you one question. “Mitten d’rinen!” Not now!
I tend to think of the end of February as a “Mitten d’rinen!” time of the year. Winter is not quite over, and Spring is just a few weeks away.
No mistake that Groundhog Day takes place in the first week of this month. It is a lovely tradition that is steeped in silliness and in anticipation of the end of one season giving way to the next.
This year’s turn of the season adds another and more painful aspect beyond the chilling effects of winter which will hopefully abate.
The pandemic is still with us, painfully with us! We all know the statistics for each day brings a shocking review of death and illness. The vaccines are finally here
as are other measures that if followed will minimize harm. It is human nature to practice denial. Some think they are indestructible and have some special
immunity from this plague. Some religious leaders in defiance have done what they could to ignore the proscriptions and prescriptions. One woman, a devout Christian,
was questioned why she was gathering at church service with hundreds of others. She cheerfully insisted: “I am bathed in the blood of Christ” which somehow offered her immunity.
Such foolishness is not limited to Christian devotees as many of our traditional brethren have also gathered for huge celebrations. In all instances, illness and death follow.
I am as anxious as anyone to return to our sanctuary filled with members. It is still not safe! We remain virtual! All of us are filled with an anxiety (or should be) about how diligent we need to be.
Many of my rabbinical colleagues often face pressure to allow services to resume in the temple. There is a wide range of responses to life cycle events. I have elected at this perilous time
to officiate at our cemetery sadly for funerals and unveilings, practicing distancing and mask wearing. Many of my colleagues will only officiate virtually. I respect their choice. Home visits
are out of the question for many. I have continued at holiday time to visit members with some trepidation. Hospital visits are not possible now. It is ironic that the holiday of masks is upon us, Purim!
Beyond the comedy of the normal celebrations is a subtext about the threat to Jewish life. It is for the foreseeable future Purim every day. I wish it were otherwise. In Hebrew the word for
patience is Savlanut. It is related to Hebrew root Samech Bet Lamed – S B L meaning toleration or suffering. There is an old equivalent in English. In a scene from the
film Dr. Zhivago, Yuri’s half-brother Yefgraf says, “He suffered me to buy him a new suit of clothes!” (The book is better by the way!)
I wish one and all Savlanut, patience at this time and not suffering. Purim and joy is if not around the corner – it is in view!
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.