Hearing New York cry

Despite trying, I don’t think I fully understood. The other night I listened in the car to some pre-Shabbat recorded Sermons of various rabbis. One was from before Pesach and full of fear — you could hear the rabbi trembling speaking to congregants in L.A. and trying to comfort them.

I was shocked. The rabbi was full of fear.

We in Israel have somehow mostly, imperfectly, but pretty well dodged the first bullet. We had illness and deaths but not on the scale as our brethren in other places and certainly not the U.S. and especially New York.

Like them, we’ve stayed at home, we shopped online, and kept our kids at home with mixed educational success.

But I don’t think the overwhelming sense of dread that has impacted others has impacted most of us.

Many of us called, we sent messages, we posted on social media — yet some of us, perhaps, felt we were all experiencing the same dread when maybe we were not.

I have spoken to friends in New York who have experienced this virus with much more dread than I did. I personally know many more that were very sick and even died in the U.S. and in the U.K. than here in Israel. And that makes statistical sense.

I have posted public calls to prayer for all citizens of the world, have worked hard to contact others, to facilitate online study sessions, etc. But maybe it was from less of a sense of urgency since I didn’t hear sirens blaring throughout Passover day and night.  Especially my Jewish friends and relatives in the tristate area suffered physically and mentally in a way that was different for me.

Perhaps having buried friends and neighbors during wars has made me numb. Maybe standing worried in the wake of terror attacks and missile barrages coarsened my nerves.  Maybe feeling that the Israeli government is doing a pretty good job keeping the disease under control blunted my fear for my friends.

I recently posted a response to Jews calling for us Israelis to do more:

“We sent a plane to Detroit, didn’t we?” I said.

“We called, didn’t we?” I retorted.

“We had supplemental prayers in some places, didn’t we?” I said.

Maybe that was the problem? I said too much and listened too little. But I’m listening now.

We don’t know if synagogues will be open this Yom Kippur. But praying at home or in shul. I can still say, “for the sin of not listening to the cries of my brother enough.” And beat my chest. I cry for my family in New York and other parts of the U.S. and the world. For each and every person suffering in body or soul from this disease and its cruel social implications

We are with you, New York, and everywhere. But especially those who have stood with us in thick or thin, we hear your cries – we are one.


About the Author
Rabbi Berman is the Associate Director at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi. In addition, he has held numerous posts in education from the high school level through adult education. He founded the Jewish Learning Initiative (JLI) at Brandeis University and served as rabbinic advisory to the Orthodox community there for several years. Previously, he was a RaM at Midreshet Lindenbaum where he also served as the Rav of the dormitory.
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