BY BARRY COHEN
States across the country are starting the process of reducing their COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions. Various businesses are interacting with customers. Officials are opening beaches and parks. People are much closer together than 6 feet.
How has this made me feel? I am suspect, skeptical and scared about following their lead. When the time comes in Oregon, I don’t see myself rushing out to meet at a café or restaurant. I am also nervous about hiking Portland’s beautiful trails, because I imagine that they will be packed.
What is going on here? Why do I feel this way?
I look at what is going on in other states, and I am not satisfied that we are opening in the right way and for the right reasons. The process feels chaotic and Pollyanna-ish. I also struggle to grasp why people will put themselves and others at risk because they claim their liberties and freedoms are under siege.
I know what will lessen my fears. Our government officials across the country need to take a more organized response. We need to follow the “3-Ts,” testing, tracing and treatment. This will strengthen our ability to identify and control the spread of COVID-19. It will also buy us time until a vaccine has been developed and implemented. Granted, that will take time, arguably a year, if not more.
I am pleased and relieved that Governor Kate Brown has taken a systematic response to COVID-19 and is trusting scientific findings and counsel about how to open up our state.
In the meantime, how do I address my fears, skepticism and cynicism? I am turning to the wisdom of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, latter 18th and early 19th century spiritual scholar and master.
With his meditation, “Wise Counsel,” he speaks of the power of surrounding ourselves with the best people: “O God, how can I make my way through the confusion and uncertainty that cloud so much of what I do? Guide me to wise teachers and mentors, whose advice is pure and in tune with Your will. Guide me to true friends, whose counsel is caring and promotes my best interests. Guide me to clear, correct decisions, to conclusions that are sound and free of all doubt.”
Rebbe Nachman also taught about the power of fostering a personal connection with nature, whether through walks, sitting outside, or simply gazing through a window.
With “Recognizing Life’s Miracles,” Nachman prays: “Open my eyes, O God, to the marvels that surround me. Show me the wonder of each breath I take, of my every thought, word and movement. Let me experience the miracles of the world I witness – ever mindful and always appreciative of all that You have made.”
Through developing and maintaining healthy relationships with others and through fostering a connection with the Creation greater than ourselves, we can lessen our fears, stresses and anxieties and develop the strategies to weather this storm of uncertainty.
As the Community Chaplain for the Greater Portland Jewish community, Rabbi Barry Cohen serves as a resource for all Jews in our community. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 971-361-6124.