Rabbi Fuchs Reflects

The coronavirus crisis has confronted us with circumstances few of us could have imagined only a few months ago. Our lives have changed – radically, but one look at the news, with people standing outside in frigid weather on long lines, waiting for food, or a test, spaced at least six feet apart, should let us know how blessed we are to be here in Southwest Florida.

The numbers of lives lost and afflicted stagger us. And the thousands on the front lines fighting the virus and caring for the sick inspire us.

Numbers? No, they are real people who could easily be our loved ones or ourselves. They are the embodiment of God’s image, a sacred act of creation.

Poet Hannah Senesh  (www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hannah-senesh), who parachuted behind enemy lines and was tortured and executed at age 23 for aiding the Partisans who resisted Hitler, wrote, (Ashrei ha-Gafrur in the original Hebrew) “Blessed is the Match.”

Blessed is the moth consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the heart’s secret places.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

We offer our profound gratitude to all who have risked or given their lives so that the flames in others will continue to burn. Victor Frankl, the famous neurologist and psychiatrist, who survived Theresienstadt and Auschwitz and later wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, taught, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of purpose and meaning.”


Yes, our lives have changed, and we all feel frustrated and powerless to make a difference. But not being able to do all we wish to do should never stop us from acting as Frankl urged, with purpose and meaning to do whatever we can.

Let us do all we can to remain healthy.  Hand washing, sanitizing and physical distancing, cannot be optional. Drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods and try to get sufficient sleep.  Seek new ways – in our enforced leisure – to keep our minds occupied.  Reach out with phone calls, emails and letters to those who are alone  .Donate what you can to organizations that make a difference.

As a congregation, Bat Yam was the first on the Island to announce a switch from in-person events to digital activities to remain connected and offer comfort to our members and the wider community.


We all owe a debt of gratitude to our technological wizards, Michael Samet, Ron and Janice Block Chaddock,  Don Breiter,  Garry Weiss and Dave Waks for making possible our Shabbat Welcome,  Shabbat Morning classes and our Wednesday Coffee Hour. I shudder to think where we would be without them.

A special shoutout goes to Dave Waks, who worked tirelessly for hours with Cantor Simon and myself to ensure our Passover seder would go well.

The effort paid off. Our seder reached homes from Hawaii to Germany. Our other offerings reach far more people in more places than those who were able to attend in person before the current crisis.

Recently, many of us learned that the famous song “Over the Rainbow” was not just written toexpress a little girl’s hope to escape Kansas in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz.  Rather, the song’s Jewish composers, Harold Arlen (nee Hyman Arluck) and Yip Harburg (nee Isidore Hochberg) had something greater in mind.


Seeing the storm clouds gathering over Europe after Kristallnacht they were dreaming of land over “the rainbow” of their people’s suffering: Israel.


As we confront the changes in our lives the coronavirus has wrought, I am so proud that Bat Yam is looking “over the rainbow.” With people stepping forward to meet the current challenge with courage and creativity, we shall soon “wake up with the clouds far behind” to embrace a bright and sunny future.

~ Rabbi Stephen Fuchs