When I was a child, and things troubled me I found great comfort in the 1954 Eddie Fisher top ten song,” Count Your Blessings.”
“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”
How frequently that haunting refrain has played in my mind over the past seven months! The novelty, if ever there was one, of the pandemic has worn off. The “camping trip alone in the woods” mentality that some of us could adopt during the early weeks of lockdown has long since given way to the harsh realities of isolation, economic hardship, suffering and death which are the enduring “worries” of the time in which we are now living.
And yet … if there is a single factor that has sustained the Jewish people through the many dark nights history has forced us to live through, it is our ability to savor and count our blessings.
The response of Bat Yam Temple of the islands to the pandemic is a wonderful example of counting our blessings in the midst of “worry.”
Instead of allowing Covid-19 to sink us, our leadership team, headed by Michael Hochschild and Janice Chaddock, exhorted us to pool our individual skills and dedicate them to furthering the congregation’s sacred task of providing a warm, welcoming center of meaningful Jewish worship, study, community and social justice initiatives. Other congregations have responded similarly.
Among the blessings we have discovered is the miracle of our extended reach. Passover was a prime example. Our Seder included participants not only from Sanibel but also from as far away as Hawaii and Europe and many places in between.
Likewise our High Holy Day worship was a miracle.
This year many congregations spent big money on costly show business technology and professional experts to pre-record dazzling extravaganzas to enhance their Holy Day offerings. To each their own! But Bat Yam Temple of the Islands quickly and prudently decided to maintain the boundary between soulful worship and show business. Relying on the considerable knowledge and skill thankfully possessed by our wonderful Tech Team volunteers, our Holy Days were not only spiritually fulfilling, they reached far beyond the walls of our sanctuary to homes of congregants and others from around the country and other parts of the world.
Similarly our educational and social justice programs, which traditionally had been on hiatus between May and November stimulated hearts and minds not just in this country but in Germany, South Africa and Australia as well.
Personally, Vickie and I had looked forward for years to sharing the joy of our first grandchild’s Bar Mitzvah in November. The pandemic, though, forced us to forego the hugs and togetherness that would have brought our far-flung family together with great joy. We do not minimize how much our experience was diminished. But at the same time we savor our ability to view and share the joy of Zachary’s achievement through the miracle of modern technology.
Through many difficult periods of history our people have made do as best we could and continued to find blessings in difficult circumstances. Our celebration of Chanukah is a prime example. From slavery in Egypt to the Inquisition in Spain to the Shoah in Germany and many times in between, we have endured. And while it threatens to continue to plague us, the Covid -19 pandemic will not defeat us either.
Lam-rot ha-Kol (in spite of everything) as we say in Hebrew, we Jews have survived and thrived because of our ability – even in the darkest of hours—to count our blessings and trust that the future will be better.
This time of Covid-19 will be no different. Despite the difficulties of these days, our blessings are many, and our future will be bright