I just got off the phone with a neighbor. Until the pandemic, she and I had been close. She’s smart, especially when it comes to raising kids and I frequently sought her counsel. But then came COVID.
Now we find ourselves at two sides of an impermeable wall. I’m fully vaxxed, three jabs into my left arm and my erstwhile friend? She claims a surfeit of “natural antibodies” in such copious supply that being vaccinated could harm her health — an interesting claim and one I’ve never heard before and don’t have the scientific smarts to validate
This morning, my friend/neighbor/frenemy asked to join our outside minyan, the one that we maintain in our garden for people who are especially virus-phobic.
I thought for a moment — it’s hard to decline a sincere request for a place to pray. and my friend/neighbor/frenemy is exceptionally devout,. This is a person who gets down on all fours during the Avoda section of the Yom Kippur liturgy.
My first impulse was to give a green light
But then I thought for a moment. The whole raison d’etre of our private pop-up shul is to be a safe space. If I let her in I’d be compromising the others. I told my friend/neighbor/frenemy to vaccinate before coming and she refused.
Now I’m attempting to make peace with my words I don’t regret my decision. And yet it hurts.
This pandemic has provoked a strange civil war among us. Even in my small community where most people agree on kashrut, modesty standards, even political parties, we are now split among the vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers.
And both sides are vehement, certain that the other has murderous intent.
So what are we to do?
Establish boundaries. Wear a mask when conversing with an anti-vax friend or perhaps use the telephone, but remember the bigger picture.
In his excellent biography, “The Rebbe,” Joseph Telushkin relates that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe maintained friendships across vast ideological boundaries.
How did he do it? At the forefront of his mind was something we all need to remember — that human beings are complex, and that, like those Venn diagrams we drew in seventh grade, we can find various points of intersection
If you’ve got friends with whom you disagree on vaxxing, politics, religion, diet — you name the point of contention and there are plenty — find something else to talk about. In England, people use to converse about the weather. Here in Israel, we can kvetch about the heat or swap recipes or talk about books, movies, music.
This virus has destroyed too many lives. Let’s not let it end our beautiful friendships.
We are coming upon a new year. Please G-d let this be a year of healing, a year when COVID leaves our midst and when we can restore our broken relationships.