This Shabbat we begin reading the Book of Numbers which in Hebrew is known as BaMidbar, “In The Wilderness.” It covers almost 38 of the 40 years between the Exodus from Egypt and our people’s entering the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. The Wilderness experience was necessary before we could live our lives as an independent people in our own land; sometimes it takes time and patience to go from one life stage to another.
We’ve learned this lesson from the COVID pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic more than 3 years ago many of us believed that after a few weeks things would go back to normal. We learned that returning to normal is not an event but a process. While most government imposed restrictions have been rescinded, different institutions and individuals are at different places in terms of their own practices.
With the end of the Public Health Emergency earlier this week, we will no longer be asking for advance registration for in person services. We continue to require full vaccination (although we do not require proof) for those attending services (unless you have a medical exemption). If you are running a fever or have other symptoms of COVID or a recent COVID exposure, please join us on Zoom rather than in person.
If you are honored with an aliyah, you may continue to take your aliyah at your seat or come up to the Bimah, whatever is most comfortable for you -- but if you are at the Bimah please try to maintain some distance from the reader and gabbai. Gabbai’im can also fulfill their role at the Bimah or from the front podium as is comfortable for them. Please respect the choices of those who continue to use masks, who prefer to social distance and do not remain for Kiddush. Different people are at different places in terms of their own comfort level and personal risk factors and no one should feel pressure or judgment because of the choices they make as we learn to live with endemic rather than pandemic COVID.
The above adjustments are possible because Montgomery County remains an area where there is a low level of community transmission of COVID. If the level of transmission should increase, adjustments will have to be made. We will also have to have different procedures for the High Holidays when we have many more people in our Sanctuary.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building. Please note that tomorrow, Thursday, May 18, my drop in hours will start at 3 rather than 4 due to an unavoidable schedule conflict. There will also be no Talmud class tomorrow evening
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. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian