Mar 17, 2020

Seeing God's Face

Seeing God's FaceRabbi Menachem Creditor

I said Kaddish this morning in a virtual minyan led by my friend, Rabbi Eytan Hammerman, my first time doing that. I had previously limited digital participation to being an observer of a minyan, saying "amen" from the distance to the "real" gathering that was physically present together. Today I typed it as a comment, a digital response as my friend recited the words on my screen.

Everything has changed. Physical presence is impossible, ritually forbidden (see Rabbi Robbie Harris' powerful piece in The Times of Israel on this), and minyan *MUST* be possible. Not only because of those who need to say kaddish, but because we need each other. Minyan is the basic grouping in Jewish tradition: community. The teachings of Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt and Rabbi Aaron Alexander come to mind: "veChai Bahem/Live through the commandments" (Lev. 18:5) means that we are called by tradition to truly live. Today. Together.

I recited Kaddish with Eytan and 16 others who appeared on my screen. (Poetically, in that moment, we were 18, the numeric equivalent of the Hebrew word "chai," meaning life.) It has been deeply emotional to see the faces of others. In my soul, it has been like seeing the face of God (Genesis 33:10), nothing less.

Being "with others" is so holy, so necessary, so important. There isn't one way to do it, but in this moment, every way that is possible should be embraced. Some will draw the line at which prayers can be said without physical proximity. But let's agree that we can - and must - come close to each other in these hard times and pray together.

Seeing you all on my screen is like seeing God's face.



Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Scholar in Residence, UJA-Federation NY