Masks and Crowns

Here at Kavana, crowns are at the forefront of our minds this week: both the crown-resembling Coronavirus, and the crowns of royalty that the preschoolers in our Gan are wearing each day as they dress up as "Melech Ahasverosh" and "Malkat Esther" in preparation for Purim.

Here at Kavana, crowns are at the forefront of our minds this week: both the crown-resembling Coronavirus, and the crowns of royalty that the preschoolers in our Gan are wearing each day as they dress up as "Melech Ahasverosh" and "Malkat Esther" in preparation for Purim.

Both stories -- the tale of the Coronavirus and its travels, and the story that lies within the Book of Esther -- feature a widespread, deadly threat. Both demonstrate how public fear can be managed and mitigated through preparation, a plan, and communication. And both demonstrate how a society's overall health depends on every link in the chain, including (especially!) society's most vulnerable members. We are reminded of this at the end of Megillat Esther when the Jews of Persia are instructed to give "matanot le'evyonim" ("gifts to the poor"), and we also see this theme playing out in the ongoing tale of the Coronavirus outbreak in a variety of ways: for example, the high impact of the virus on patients who are already medically compromised, and the idea that many of the recommended public health practices (staying home when sick, social distancing, etc) are more about protecting the community than the individual.

At Kavana, we will continue to follow the lead of the public health experts when it comes to making decisions about community gatherings. For now, all scheduled Kavana programs are on, and we ask our community members to stay home if sick, to wash hands thoroughly and frequently, and to exercise caution around close contact. We will of course communicate if that changes. We are grateful to the many individuals working to manage, treat, plan and communicate around this outbreak (including Kavana partners Sharon Bogan at King County Public Health and Anna Boiko-Weyrauch at KUOW, both of whom have played important roles this week in disseminating critical information to the public.)

As a Jewish community, perhaps Kavana's unique role here is to provide "public spiritual health" expertise. We are still figuring out exactly what that looks like in this novel situation, but some examples of a Jewish spiritual and communal lens applied here include:

  • a reminder not to panic. This is a theme across Jewish tradition, from the Tanakh's "Do not fear, for I am with you" quotes, to Rebbe Nachman's "The whole world is a narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to be afraid."
  • a safety net. If anyone in this community is struggling during this Coronavirus outbreak (whether from the virus itself or from the fallout around it), please reach out to Kavana, and we will do our best to mobilize appropriate support... whether that means grocery delivery or daily check-in phone calls.
  • that sense of one-ness (echad). Truly, if we ever doubted the interconnectedness of all life, this story is a powerful illustration of the ties that bind us across the globe, and the ways in which we are dependent on each other and all life.
  • a sense of uplift and intentionality. As we take regular breaks to practice great handwashing for 20-seconds at a time, perhaps instead of singing the ABCs or Happy Birthday, we could use this time to set intentions. This could be accomplished by reciting the traditional blessing for handwashing ("asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al netilat yadayim"), singing an uplifting Jewish song, or meditating/praying about how we hope to use our hands to protect ourselves and our community and to do good in the world.

We look forward to seeing many of you over the coming week for our Purim celebrations, and wish you a week filled with only the healthy, fun kinds of crowns and masks.

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum & the Kavana Team