Community Rabbi Corner, May 1, 2020

Rabbi Dan Selsberg
Temple Sholom
Bridgewater, NJ
Parashat Kedoshim

While I sat down to write this, I got a call from RWJ University Hospital- Somerset.  Alas, over the last couple of months, I’ve been in much closer contact with the Pastoral Care Department there. There are a number of Jewish patients looking for someone to talk with, or say a bracha or two with.  But, of course, this spring is unique.

Unique, because of the virtual vidui.  The vidui, if you’re fortunate enough not to know, is a series of prayers said when it seems that death may be near.  It’s not dissimilar from the vidui, the confession, that we say on Yom Kippur, and for a similar reason. Just like we say the vidui to admit the truth to ourselves and to God, and to start the new year with a clean slate, so too, when we think we may not make it to the next Yom Kippur, we say a version of the vidui.  I always think that,while we are not privileged to know what comes next, truth and a clean slate are a good start, or at least a good finish.

So this spring I’ve done a few virtual viduis. Without physically being in the hospital room, a nurse holds a phone and a family member shares a screen or a line with me as I say the prayers for those suffering from COVID-19 at a distance. It’s hard. I find myself crying with people I’ve never met (some patients are shul members, some are not).  It’s all difficult (for those suffering, I’m aware, much more than for me).

And sometimes people express regret.  We didn’t know he would go so soon.  We didn’t think she would slip away so fast.  We left things unsaid.  I hope he knows how I feel.  I hope she knows that I love her.  You might think scenes like that only happen in movies, but I can assure you, they are real.

I could take this time to write about the things we’re going through as a shul, as a community, as we work our way through this pandemic crisis, but really, what I want to say is the most basic message we can hear anytime.  It may be hard to bury the hatchet, to tell someone you love them, or to forgive, or admit you are the one who has done or said something that merits forgiveness. But it’s harder to not say it.  That emotional bill comes due.  It’s hard, but life is sometimes hard.  Tell the people you love that you love them, the people you forgive that you forgive them, and the people you’ve wronged that you regret wronging them.  That’s what a season of virtual viduis has taught me.

We do not know what tomorrow brings.  We can only act in a way to help ensure that it does not bring regret.

May you and yours enjoy good health, and lives of joy, even in hard times.