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Spiritual Life Pesach 2020

(To be published in this week’s Ilford Recorder in a slightly different form, without names)

Two Shabbatot ago, Ron Kennard, a long-time member of Bet Tikvah, died of Covid19. How sad that at his funeral, there were only two people, Rabbi Richard and my friend in his coffin. Even sadder that Ron’s two children were not permitted to be present at the cemetery. But saddest of all that they were not with their father in hospital to say their last goodbyes. Yet Jonathan and Judy were far from alone. Internet technology allowed us to broadcast his funeral to around 150 invisible, silent and compassionate watchers, surrounding us like a host of angels.

This Thursday is the first day of Passover. Normally, such a joyful and social family festival. How sad that this year there will be only two people at our Passover meal – myself and my wife. Yet we will not be alone. Again, the magical new technology will allow us to share the ritual meal with our family, invisible presences, like angels at our table.

As part of the ritual meal, Jewish people recount the Ten Plagues that the Almighty visited upon Egypt. As each plague is named, a drop of red wine is spilled onto the white tablecloth, bringing to mind the suffering of the mostly blameless Egyptians.

Disease epidemics infecting whole populations have featured regularly, throughout human history. Political and religious leaders, nurses and doctors do what they can, but without a simple cure, our lives hang in the balance; our futures lie in God’s hands.

Nearly 3,000 years ago, King David expressed his own private prayer for healing in Psalm 39. If you wish, you might read and pray this moving Psalm yourself:

“Tell me, O Lord, what my term is, what is the measure of my days; I would know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life just handbreadths long; its span is as nothing in Your sight; no man endures any longer than a breath.
Man walks about as a mere shadow; mere futility is his hustle and bustle, amassing and not knowing who will gather in.
What, then, can I count on, O Lord? In You my hope lies.
Take away Your plague from me; I perish from Your blows.
You chastise a man in punishment for his sin, consuming like a clothes-moth all that he treasures. No man is more than a breath.
Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my cry; do not disregard my tears; for like all my forebears I am a temporary resident; my permanent home lies with You.
Look away from me, that I may recover, before I pass away and am gone.”

Emeritus Rabbi David Hulbert

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