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05/14/2020 04:32:08 PM


Sheila Feirstein


From: Sheila Feirstein 

What A Cliffhanger!

Brilliant of you to keep us waiting for tomorrow for part 2!

By the way, you brought out a bit of cynical snarkyness in me as I think back to 1st grade when Morah T told us if we didn't read each Hebrew letter correctly it would cry. I believed her and read beautifully, articulating each letter and its proper sound throughout grade school.  Then in 6th grade Morah S. told us if we didn’t say the bracha before eating we would choke on our food. 

Since nobody choked after eating unblessed food, the threat seemed to be an empty one.  An angry classmate who felt confused and betrayed by Morah S. confronted her.  The answer she gave was that while we may not have choked at that specific time or other times, it didn't mean it wouldn't happen... It could happen any time G-d chose to bring down the punishment. And the only way to prevent that was to say the bracha each and every time. 

Fast forward to 12/12/12. My friend was teaching 2nd graders at an all-girls Jewish day school in Woodmere and walked into a class of hysterical frightened girls. One girl had told the others she overheard the news about the world coming to an end (as per interpretation of the Mayan calendar by some). Panic erupted as the girls realized this meant Mashiach would be coming and they were not ready!

And so the agenda of anxiety and fear (for our own good?) continued from childhood straight into young adulthood and beyond to the next generation. And now it all comes in handy as we prepare to beat the Coronavirus through various actions of wearing masks and social distancing that seem to be promoted by fear rather than wit.

In the absence of any better tactics, let's hope all that training pays off and people continue to give into their fears and help flatten the curve to save lives.

As per my email subscription to A Daily Dose of Talmud, today's daf confronts a very interesting version of fear and anxiety concerning different kinds of fever, boils, wounds and demons.

While we don't usually appreciate enough or even think about our indoor plumbing, it still remains a challenging reality for many today. Especially in developing parts of the world, but even right here in the Five Towns! 

If anyone has ever had to use a Porta Potty at a sporting event or during construction, you would know it's dark, smelly, and downright disturbing. So much so that one might envision demons lurking inside. As per the Gemara, we understand that the outhouse was a place people feared. Today, we would extend this thinking to our fears of spreading diseases through unsanitary conditions and filth (and maybe wet markets).

Fortunately, the Gemara gives a suggestion to deal with this issue:

"To be saved from the demon of the bathroom, let him recite as follows: On the head of a lion and on the nose of a lioness we found the demon named Bar Shiriqa Panda. With a bed of leeks I felled him, and with the jaw of the donkey I struck him.”"

May we be blessed to have success solving our current problems with the helpful (and sometimes doubtful) resolutions our leadership offers us.

Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784