A different Judaism in the days of Corona

I’ve been thinking that Judaism looks a lot like Jazz music these days.

In Jazz, you have all these different pieces and parts, instruments and sounds combining together to create a multi-layered auditory experience. Once you get to the solos, however, some of those pieces and parts start fading into the background, if not sitting out entirely.

Then you get to the bass solo, and usually it’s just the drummer who’s still hanging on with a light, soft rhythm as backup.

But when it comes to the drum solo, it’s only the drums, no one and nothing else. The drums stand on their own and show the listener that they are the driving force behind the music, and have been the whole time. They need no support from anyone or anything else.

Right now, we’re seeing something similar with Judaism.

Those who are familiar with it know that, while beautiful and inspiring and incredibly meaningful, Jewish practice is also super complex and complicated and filled with a seemingly infinite amount of detailed laws that could be dizzying at times.

But right now, as a result of the dangerous and deadly spread of the Coronavirus, so many of those laws and customs that in normal times seem like “God’s word from Sinai” are losing their usual place at center stage of Jewish life and are being moved to the side, if not completely disappearing for the time being.

Going to synagogue, davenning in a minyan, public Torah reading, public celebrations of weddings and other life-cycle events, visiting those in mourning, and even, in some places, burying the dead in the traditional Jewish manner are just some of the Jewish practices that have not only been put on hold, but have been banned by governmental and communal leaders.

And what’s left standing, for the grand solo that needs no backup or accompaniment, is the everlasting and indestructible Jewish value of…Life.

It is able to stand on its own because, since time immemorial, it has been the eternal and essential teaching of Judaism. To value life, to love life and to live life to the fullest. And to do all we can to allow others to be able to do the same.

The rest of Judaism is just commentary.

Blessings of Life to all in these challenging and unprecedented times.

L’chaim to all on the deepest level.

About the Author
Akiva Gersh is the editor of the book "Becoming Israeli" (www.becomingisraeli.com), a compilation of blogs and essays that speak of the inspiring and the sometimes wacky and crazy experience of making aliyah. Akiva himself made aliyah in 2004 with his wife Tamar and they live in Pardes Hanna with their four kids. He teaches Jewish history at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel in Hod HaSharon. He is also a musician and in 2010 formed Holy Land Spirit, an uplifting and spiritual musical experience for Christian groups visiting Israel.
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