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Chief Rabbi and Rebbetzin’s lockdown lessons



This year has been like no other, and it was therefore very difficult to write Rosh Hashanah messages like any other year. As Rosh Hashanah 5781 approaches, we (Gina and I) take this opportunity to reflect and share some of our lessons from lockdown with you. It is our hope that as the resilient and magnificent community South African Jewry is, we will all emerge from this stronger, more evolved, and more equipped than ever to approach 5781 with hope and optimism.

Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein

Over these traumatic months, I have seen people deal with illness and bereavement with faith and fortitude. I have seen tenacious and bold entrepreneurs face and prevail over devastating odds. I have seen generous donors support them.

I have seen people lose their jobs but not their self-worth. I have seen schools transform themselves into online institutions within days. I have seen parents transform themselves into home-schooling experts and dig deep to keep their children stimulated, entertained and safe, while stuck at home for months.

I have seen rabbis and rebbetzins teach, comfort, and hold their congregants with love across digital platforms when it wasn’t possible to do so in person. I have seen the total commitment of our shul leaders to the safety and health of our community.

I have seen unwavering commitment to the mitzvot of mikveh and brit mila, even through so much complexity. I have seen barmitzvah boys, who prepared for so long to lein, accept with happiness the limitations of their situation.

I have seen young couples decide not to postpone their weddings, and rather celebrate now within the constraints of all the medical protocols.

I have seen people generously supporting their schools and shuls through this crisis. I have seen brave doctors and healthcare workers risk their lives to heal others.

I have seen managers of our old-aged homes across the country completely overhaul how they operate to prevent the spread of death. I have seen community organisations work together in unity and as a team for the sake of us all.

I have seen resilience, acceptance, courage, faith, innovation, adaptability, optimism, hope, and strength. I have seen that we are much stronger and more resilient than we can even imagine.

Where does this strength come from? From within. We are created, as the Torah teaches us, ‘in G-d’s image’, with an awesome Divine soul, which has within it a reflection of His greatness. That is where our greatness comes from.

And throughout these months, I have seen G-d’s energy and light shining through us all. He has walked with us through this rollercoaster journey, giving us the courage and wisdom we need to get through it with strength and dignity. We go forward with Hashem into 5781, confident that with His blessings and our inner strength, we are ready for the New Year.

Rebbetzin Gina Goldstein

My lessons from lockdown:

Everything is (more or less) okay!

Less on my ‘to do’ list; more on my ‘to be’ list.

Less ambition; more self-acceptance.

Less rushing and demands; more thoughtfulness and planning.

Less socialising with friends; more family quality time.

Limited shopping options; more gratitude and appreciation.

Less excitement and recreation; more creativity and innovation.

Less noise; more silence.

Less school educational hours; more fun and personal freedom.

Less chatter and coffee dates; more reading and writing.

Less live entertainment; more deep introspection.

Less time-wasting; more Torah learning.

Less mental stimulation; more mental hygiene.

Fewer gym hours; more walks and talks.

Fewer office hours and less work; more garden and sunshine.

No visitors for yom tov; joyful meals shared alone with our kids.

Less complaining; more thankfulness.

More uncertainty and fear; more courage and bravery.

My world has shrunk; my heart and mind have expanded.

Many harsh changes; more emotional flexibility.

More illness and health risks; more davening and tehillim.

More social isolation and depression; less self-centredness and judgement.

Less income and fewer jobs; more kindness and charity.

Less stretching our time; more balancing our priorities.

Where there is loss and disappointment; new energy and strength swims in to fill the gaps. There is no vacuum, no void in life.

Keep calm and carry on.

May Hashem bless our community, our country, and our world with health and healing, and a good and sweet New Year for us all.

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