(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:
Emeritus Rabbi David Hulbert