Rabbi's Update 1/3/2022
I will often post the quote “I believe in snow” on my Facebook page when it’s expected to snow but is not yet doing so.
I recognize that snow is actually a controversial topic and while many of us love it, others do not because of the disruptions in travel, work and school schedules, and so on which it causes.
Keleigh and I started saying “I believe in snow” after watching the 1956 film “The King and I” starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. In one scene, Anna Leonowens, the British tutor to the Siamese King’s many children is teaching a geography lesson and mentions that a certain mountain range is covered with snow year round. Living in a very warm climate, the children have never seen snow and flatly refuse to believe that it exists, to the utter frustration of their teacher.
At a later point in the film, “Mrs. Anna” decides to quit her job and return to Great Britain when the King once again refuses to provide her with a house outside the palace, as her contract called for. By this time she has become quite beloved by her students, who plead with her to stay. Finally one of them tugs at her dress, looks up at her and says in a pleading tone “I believe in snow.”
While it’s a cute and touching scene, this vignette also encapsulates the way most of us live our lives. We don’t have the personal knowledge or expertise to evaluate everything we encounter, and we have to decide whether or not to trust the expertise of others. I only have a vague understanding of how a massive metal tube with wings can actually fly, but I trust the engineers who have designed it and the pilot who flies it. I don’t understand how computers convert words, pictures, or sounds into data, how they are transmitted through the air or over wires, and how a computer at the other end converts it back into sound, words, and pictures, but I still use computers and the Internet.
I’ve never actually seen a virus or an antibody but I trust the scientists and physicians who tell me that the coronavirus exists, that it is mostly transmitted by droplets in the air, and that vaccinations will drastically reduce but not eliminate the possibility that I will catch it and will probably mean that if I do catch it, my symptoms will be very mild. And I trust them when they tell us as well that even with the existence of vaccines, as a society and as individuals we need to follow certain practices that further reduce the likelihood of catching the disease and spreading it to others.
The trick is to know which experts are worth listening to and which are not. Within certain communities in our country and others there is a real dispute where certain religious or political leaders claim an expertise that they do not really possess, to the detriment of those who follow them. Jewish teaching is very clear -- rabbis decide matters of Jewish law but medical realia are determined by qualified physicians and scientists.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian