A Comforting Message from the desk of Rabbi Helbraun

March 16, 2020

Dear Friends,

I was speaking to a colleague today, who mentioned that as he drove in to his congregation to pick up a few things to bring home with him, the empty roads and the feelings of uncertainty reminded him of 9/11. As we spoke, I suggested that while there are similarities to that situation, there are also differences; for 9/11 created a sense of anxiety based on uncertainty. Would there be a next attack? Where would it come from? Would we feel safe again? Would life ever return to normal?

Today’s situation is far different. Unlike the threat of terrorism, the ability for each of us to confront Covid-19 lies within our own hands – literally. (Wash them frequently, with soap, for 20 seconds.) While the immediate response to 9/11 called for us to courageously return to daily life, Covid-19 calls for us to respond with patience, to slow down, settle in and create safe space for ourselves and for others.

In a world of multitasking it is hard to not feel “guilty” about allowing ourselves to slow and settle down. And yet, that is what is required of us.

How do those of us who are not on the front lines of fighting this virus act heroically? That depends on who you are. If you are young and healthy, you might be able to shop for a friend or neighbor; or offer to babysit for families who need to go to work. If you are older – like me, it might be as simple as practicing social distancing. For by not getting sick ourselves, we enable those who do, to get the care they need to recover.

And no matter who you are, we can take the words of Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David-Judea Congregation of Los Angeles to heart. In explained that while we practice social distancing, “Every hand that we don’t shake must be a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a though as to how we might be of help to that other should the need arrive.

May we stay safe, and find ways to reach out to one another with blessings and care.


Rabbi Sidney M. Helbraun

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