Spiritually handsome in moments of uncertainty

Uncertainty.  How do we greet uncertain times?  For some uncertainty evokes humility.  For others it generates anxiety.  And yet others elect to exploit it.  You can tell a lot about a person by how she or he responds to uncertainty. 

As the coronavirus spreads, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases in over 80 countries, several things remain uncertain.  Are our precautions sufficient?  Do our bodies build immunity or can the infection recur?  Why have young children seemed less susceptible?   Knowing less feels unnerving. 

As capable people discover and design effective treatments, what beyond engaging in self-care can the rest of us do?  Pivot toward spiritual and moral handsomeness. 

In this week’s portion of Torah the garments of our holiest leaders are described.  Atop the forehead of the High Priest something called the tzitz was carefully positioned (Ex. 28:36).  Its inscription “Holy to God” was worn to radiate a particular kind of goodness that is dear to God.  In our times, garments are adorned with tzitzit to advance the very same aim. 

Like when we behold beauty, we are able to sense handsome conduct.  It nourishes growth, deepens joy, solaces grief, stirs hope, activates accountability, awakens empathy, and makes goodness glow. 

An inspiring example of a spiritually handsome response to loss blossoms (tzitz also means ‘blossom’) around the works and ways of the Shaer family who’s precious son Gil-ad was among three youths kidnapped and killed in Israel in the Summer of 2014.  Our community is proud to have a share in expanding the scope of a Purim-based custom of sharing sweetness with neighbors this coming week.

As human contact is regimented to contain an infectiousness virus, today’s unique moment of uncertainty invites a unique call to respond to our shared fragility.  We can avoid the abyss by reaching for the summit.  Spiritually handsome moments can hold much promise.  May each of us be keepers of that promise.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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