In 2008 I was among over a hundred cyclists who rode from Jerusalem to Ashqelon down through the Negev to Eilat, approximately three hundred miles. Upon my return I spoke to the congregation about the impact the ride had on me. The words I spoke then, that continue to linger in my mind, are as follows--
There were quiet moments too, when the group had spread out, when I had the entire road to myself as far as I could see. As alone as I was, with little to be heard other than the sound of my own bicycle rolling across the pavement, I would still feel secure in knowing that I was part of an amazing supportive, loving community. To be that alone and feel that connected was very sweet.
What brings this to mind today, is yesterday’s experience of worshipping virtually with the streaming Power Hour minyan. In some ways this was the most “powerful” Power Hour of all. I felt emotional twinges throughout, as I imagined my fellow congregants, absent from the empty pews that the video camera unintentionally and ironically focused upon. I was filled with appreciation at the challenge Michael, Bill, and Rabbi Ezray not only accepted, but generously and bravely met in deeply connecting with us despite the discomfort of speaking to an empty room.
I sit next to Debbie almost every week in the Beit T’fillah. This week we were together, but sequestered to my home office, viewing the service on my computer screen. I donned my kippah and tallit this Shabbat, as I would normally do in shul, but not normally do at my desk. It was an important part of creating the ritual space, as we brought our full imagination to conjure up the people and the place from which we were separated. In addition to feeling connected to the virtual community, there was another unanticipated benefit as I more keenly appreciated the blessing of having Debbie at my side.
The service was reminiscent of the virtual funeral I facilitated by conference call when my mom was buried shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That day, since travel was so uncertain, twenty friends and family dialed in from around the world. From their reports, some callers’ experience of the funeral was more vivid and emotionally charged than for those at graveside. I likened it to listening to old-time radio where listeners had to bring their imaginations to the broadcast, rather than passively receive images as on television.
None of us knows how long we will have to sustain this virus-imposed segregation. The more we experience “social distancing” the more we realize how dependent we are on social connection. Thank God, and thank Congregation Beth Jacob that we can still feel secure in knowing that we are part of an amazing supportive, loving community. To be this alone and feel this connected is very sweet.