Rabbi Rami is answering your questions, with special editions of his online column Roadside Musings.
In times of stress, we naturally turn to spiritual leaders. We asked our in-house expert Rabbi Rami to answer some of our readers’ questions.
Q: I live alone on a street with closely packed houses. We aren’t yet in lock down, but it is coming. I email and call friends and even use Facetime. But I worry about not seeing my neighbors in person. Any suggestion as to how to keep social distancing from becoming physically isolating?
Rabbi Rami answers: Here is one thing I am planning. Call your neighbors and invite them to gather on their front lawns at a set time each morning. Do a personal check-in: wave, say hi, and invite each person to share what is true for them this morning physically and emotionally? Make no attempt to “fix” one another’s feelings. If you can share a can of beans with a neighbor in need, however, don’t hesitate to do so. Then do a few minutes of Qi Gong exercise together. Even little kids can do this. I suggest doing the Eight Expressions of Qi. You can learn this from my Qi Gong teacher, Kathy Woods at http://oneriverwisdomnashville.org/our-practice/. This particular exercise is found around the 9:40 mark. When you’ve finished, bow to one another and go back inside. You might choose to do something similar in the evening.
Q: I’ve been “attending” church via the web. I’m not getting much out of it. I’m too distracted by what’s going on in my house. Any suggestions how I can deepen this experience?
A: Follow the advice of Jesus: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father” (Matthew 6:6). Take your smartphone or iPad into your bedroom or some other private space where you can close the door and focus on the service. I’d also dress for the occasion. Unless you ordinarily attend church in your pajamas, I’d wear business casual or even something more formal. Dressing up for church will make your time with church (as opposed to at church) more special. You might also consider “going to church” with friends. After the service, get on a conference call with them over coffee and gossip. Or maybe talk about the sermon, but mostly gossip. Gossip doesn’t have to be nasty, and, according to evolutionary biologists, may help keep us connected.
Q: I was listening to a pastor on a podcast who said the pandemic is like the tenth plague when the Jews hid in their homes while God killed the firstborn of Egypt. What do you make of his analogy?
A: It sounds like he is blaming the Jews for coronavirus. Spreading this kind of nonsensical thinking may well cause a spike in the already rising disease of Jew-hatred around the world as people begin blaming Jews for the coronavirus just as anti-Semites blamed Jews for the Black Plague and the downing of the Twin Towers on 9/11. My suggestion is this: unsubscribe to that podcast and subscribe instead to Spirituality & Health’s podcast Essential Conversations with Rabbi Rami.
Q: I’m on an email list urging us to pray to Jesus to end this pandemic. I know you don’t believe in Jesus, but we need all the voices we can get. Can you please pray to Him anyway?
A: I can and I will. I’ll also pray to Krishna, Shiva, Allah, Adonai, Amida Buddha, and Kali. But I won’t pray that they end the pandemic, but that they give us the courage to retain our humanity in the midst of it.
Q: I’m sequestered with my spouse. While neither of us shows any symptoms of the virus, being in such confined spaces is making us emotionally ill. I mean I love her, but I need my space! Can I say something?
A: I suspect you are not alone in feeling emotionally cramped. Find a way to share your feelings without blaming her for triggering them. Each of you should stake out private space that is yours alone, and retreat to it as needed. In addition, I would have a conversation about how your situation is bound to trigger incidents that might cause you to question the quality of your relationship and the love that binds you to one another. Make a pact that you won’t take these incidents seriously; that you won’t hold on to them and turn them into grudges; that you won’t insist on raising every single slight and engage in a drown-out investigation of what is wrong with either of you or your relationship. If you must, write down what is frustrating you about the other. A few weeks after the quarantine is over see if these things still trouble you. If they do, talk about them. If they don’t you know it had nothing to do with your relationship and everything to do with your situation.
Q: I believe in karma. We reap what we sow, and the only people who are going to get coronavirus are those who are working out bad karma from a previous life. That’s a given and it doesn’t trouble me. What does bother me is that my fiancée has Covid-19. I thought he was a decent guy, now I’m not so sure. Should I call off the wedding?
A: Not just yet. First wait to see if you get Covid-19 as well. If you do, then maybe you were meant to work out bad karma together. In fact, it may be that his karma stems from a past-life relationship you had together. Even if you don’t get sick, you might want to consider that being married to a guy with the kind of karma that caused him to get Covid-19 is just what your karma requires. Really, if karma is your thing, you are able to find a reason for whatever happens to you and whatever you choose to do about it because it’s all baked into the karmic cake.
Q: I just read one of your books, the one on the Golden Rule. I learned a lot. Which of your books should I read next?
A: Thanks. I’m always humbled when someone finds my work worth reading. As for which of my books to read next, I can’t answer that. What I suggest is that you buy all 36 of my books and stack them up by your bed. If you read one book a week, you should have read them all by the time your quarantine is up. When you finish, let me know the order in which you read them.