Rabbi Fuchs Reflects

When I was a child and things troubled me, I found great comfort in the 1954 Eddie Fisher top ten hit song, “Count Your Blessings.” “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”


How frequently that haunting refrain has played in my mind over the past seven months! The novelty, if ever there was one, of the pandemic has worn off. The “camping trip alone and isolated in the woods” mentality that some of us could adopt during the early weeks of lockdown has long since given way to the harsh realities of isolation, economic hardship, suffering and death, which

are the enduring “worries” of the time in which we are now living.                                                           

 And yet … if there is a single factor that has sustained the Jewish people through the many dark nights that history has forced us to live through, it is our ability to savor and count our blessings. The resilient re-emergence of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands is a wonderful example of counting our blessings in the midst of “worry.”


Instead of allowing the events that afflicted the congregation last winter to sink us, our leadership team, headed by Michael Hochschild and Janice Block Chaddock, exhorted us not to dwell on recrimination and anger, but to pool our individual skills and dedicate them to furthering the congregation’s sacred task of providing a warm, welcoming center of meaningful Jewish worship, study, community and social justice initiatives.


Among the blessings we have discovered on our journey is the miracle of our extended reach. Passover was a prime example. Our Seder included participants not only from Sanibel but also from as far away as Hawaii and Europe and many places in between.


Likewise, our High Holy Day worship was a miracle. This year many congregations spent big money on costly show business technology and professional experts to pre-record dazzling extravaganzas to enhance their Holy Day offerings.


But Bat Yam Temple of the Islands quickly and prudently decided to maintain the boundary between soulful worship and show business. Relying on the considerable knowledge and skill thankfully possessed by our wonderful Tech Team, our Holy Days were not only spiritually fulfilling, they reached far beyond the walls of our sanctuary to homes of congregants and others from around the country and other parts of the world. Our educational and social justice programs, which traditionally had been on hiatus between May and November, stimulated hearts and minds not just in this country, but in Australia, Germany, Israel, and South Africa as well.


Vickie and I had looked forward for years to sharing the joy of our first grandchild’s Bar Mitzvah in November. The pandemic, though, forced us to forego the hugs and togetherness that would have brought our far-flung family together in great joy. We do not minimize how much our experience was diminished. But at the same time, we savor our ability to view and share the joy of Zachary’s achievement through the miracle of modern  technology.


Through many difficult periods of history our people have made do as best we could and continued to find blessings in difficult circumstances. From slavery in Egypt to the Inquisition in Spain to the Shoah in Germany and many times in between, we have endured. And while it threatens to continue to plague us, the COVID-19 pandemic will not defeat us either. Lam-rot ha-Kol (in spite of everything)  as we say in Hebrew, we Jews have survived and thrived because of our ability – even in the darkest of hours – to count our blessings and trust that the future will be better. This time of COVID-19 will be no different. Despite the difficulties of these days, our blessings are many, and our future will be bright.


~ Rabbi Stephen Fuchs