The last time our Temple Solel community gathered in person for Shabbat was Friday, March 13, 2020. Indeed, a Friday the 13th that proved to be a harbinger of things to come. It was an unusually rainy, dark afternoon for Phoenix. Shortly before services began, seeing the sun shining through the rain clouds, I hustled outside with the prospects of seeing a rainbow. To my delight, I was greeted by this double rainbow, arched over our sun-bathed building. This rainbow has helped get me through what is now approaching one year of the pandemic.
In writing about the biblical rainbow, arising from Noah and the ark story, the 13th-century Spanish Bible commentator, Nahmanides, sees it is an inverted bow (as in a bow and arrow) that is no longer aimed at the earth. The bow that had threatened the earth in the form of a flood, is now pointed away from earth; it no longer has a string or arrows; a ceasefire from above. In this sense, the rainbow can be seen as a hopeful portent of things to come; a sign of God orchestrating peace in the high heavens.
A rainbow is the refraction of light through water drops, breaking up the white light so that we can see the various colors in its visible spectrum.1 One moment water presents itself as threatening, torrential rains, the next moment as a breathtaking rainbow—offering possibilities barely imaginable just minutes earlier.
I recall, just a month into the pandemic, trying to offer comfort and hope to the congregation through the Jewish adage, “gam zeh ya’avor–this too shall pass.” Well, who would have imagined, now a year later, that we would still be experiencing worship, religious school, adult education, shiva minyanim, board and committee meetings, all of them virtually. Thankfully, with the remarkable, nothing short of miraculous speed of vaccines being developed, approved, manufactured and distributed, we can now say “this too shall pass” with a brighter light on the horizon.
This has been a long, devastating year. No doubt there have been silver-linings; yet we are not looking through rose-colored glasses. Family and friends have died as a direct consequence of COVID-19. Jobs have been lost, businesses closed, life cycles scaled back or postponed, isolation exacerbating the ever-present fractures of mental illness and abuse. The communal life of religious worship has been confined to our homes, on computers screens, and cell phone. COVID-19 fatigue is real.
We all want to reopen the temple and come back in person, no one more than your clergy team. Rabbi Stiel can’t wait to meet you in person! We are getting closer. Hundreds within the Solel community have either been fully vaccinated, have had their first shot, have an appointment, or are trying like the dickens to get one. At Pathfinder press time, your clergy, staff, and lay leaders are in the trenches, doing the necessary spade-work to reopen in a responsible way. Stay tuned!
March 13, 2021 coincides this year with the first day of the Hebrew month of Nisan. What a lovely gift from the universe. A rainbow at the beginning of a year filled with hardship, keeping us from losing hope—assuring us that the rain will stop, the sun will shine; gam zeh ya’avor–this too shall pass. As the month of Nisan ushers in the rebirth of spring, renewed life, and our people’s Exodus from Egypt, it too brings us closer to reengaging in life. The desert bloom is within sight. Keep that in your mind’s eyes. It’s not far off.
~Rabbi John A. Linder