Erev Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freeman


Posted by The Jewish Center on 04/24/2020

A Shabbat Message from Rabbi Bob Freedman:

How quarantine and trust intertwine is so complex. Here's the text from this week's Torah portion, talking about mold in the walls of a house, that got me thinking about it. [Leviticus 14:34-37] "The owner of the house [noticing red or green streaks in the walls] shall come and tell the priest saying, 'Something that looks to me like a plague is in my house.' Before he comes to see it the priest will order the house to be cleared, so that nothing of the contents will be unclean; after that the priest will enter to examine the house [and declare it to be clean or unclean]." Now you have to read this twice to notice that it is not the mold in the walls that renders the house and its contents unclean. Were that true, the presence or absence of mold would have already rendered the contents clean or unclean before the priest makes the house call, and removing the contents would be irrelevant. No, it is the priest's decision that makes the house and all that might have been left in it unclean! I marvel at the genius who wrote this, predating Edwin Schrödinger's Cat experiment by 2,500 years. That is, the house is in a quantum state of both clean and unclean simultaneously until the priest makes his pronouncement. Only then does the superposition collapse into either one or the other of the two possible states.

Most of us are living with at least one other person. Will we make each other ill? Is that fellow walker approaching me on the sidewalk, or the fellow shopper in the cashier line behind me, infected and about to transmit the virus to me? Can I trust my housemates or the people I encounter outside my walls? None of us know if we are carrying the corona virus. And we're not going to know until, God forbid, we fall ill and go to be tested by our modern equivalent of the trusty diagnostic priest. So I myself am in a state of quantum uncertainty. I exist in a superposition of trust and mistrust. The isolation of quarantine increases my uncertainty and anxiety. Into which state will I, by observation and commitment, collapse?

One of the many ideas in Judaism that I really like is that we are masters of our own lives. Our attitude, our thought can change our selves. That's why Yom Kippur is possible. We believe implicitly that we can repent, atone, receive forgiveness, break habits, and change.

Trusting in my heritage' teaching, I've decided to commit myself to trust. (Whew! Another quantum hurdle successfully negotiated!) That includes trusting those who tell me that if I take precautions I will remain, mostly, safe. Trusting in my own experience and what I've learned from trusted teachers, I know that living in a state of mistrust and fear is unhealthy. I want to remain able to be compassionate to my fellow humans, and if I'm not in a state of trust, I won't be able to do that. I trust that God will give me the strength to stay secure in my commitment.

I'm convinced that trust will be a hard-wired feature of the world to come. Shabbat, we're told, is a foretaste of that world. So relax. Light candles; drink wine. Allow the Sabbath queen to plant a trust flower in your soul.

Shabbat Shalom.