This past Shabbat morning I spoke about the building of the Tabernacle in the desert and the subsequent Temple in Jerusalem as divinely-guided attempts to impose order over chaos. Indeed, God’s act of creation itself is a similar act. The first chapter of the Torah tells us that when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the universe was tohu va-vohu, usually translated as “without form and void.” According to this understanding, God’s act of creation was not creatio ex nihilo, creating something out of nothing, but rather imposing order on an already existing chaos.
Our technological age has allowed us to control our lives to an unprecedented degree. If I am too cold in my house, I simply say “Alexa, raise the thermostat by two degrees” and it’s done. I don’t say “let there be light” like God did in chapter 1 of Genesis but I do say “Alexa, turn on Charles’ lamp” and my bedside lamp is on.
But the fact of the matter is that technology only goes so far. If you are a doctor or a clergy person, whenever someone sets a meeting or a meal with you, there is always the unspoken or explicit caveat “unless an emergency comes up.”
One of the frustrating aspects of the current pandemic is that we are now all in a similar situation. A parent whose child is becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah several months from now wants to know what masking or capacity rules will be in place then, but of course I cannot tell them because I don’t have a crystal ball. At my father’s funeral in November, my brother, my nieces, my cousins and I planned to get together in New York in early February to mark what would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. Instead, we gathered over Zoom, thanks to the Omicron variant. Our ability to control our environment is not what we had thought it was two years ago, but we have found new ways to adapt.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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