Personal Inoculations

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

Primarily still working from home, I am not out a lot and certainly not out in crowds. Except for last Friday. That was when I returned to Squirrel Hill to get my second vaccine. Due to social distancing, the line extended down the block – ages spanning adulthood, differing physical abilities, religions, skin tones, economic status. It was a sea of Americanism edging toward the door.

When I got to the door and then entered, I was focused on the process and following the procedure carefully. Don’t put anything on this table. Use this pen. Take your form off the paper. How many hundreds of time had he said that just that day? I thanked him, expressed my wish that he stay safe, and sat in my seat, studying “patience” as that was the next middah (soul trait) I was to teach the following week. Then I was called forward. The nurse checked in with me, I said the blessing to myself, and then she administered the shot. I thanked her and expressed my wish that she stay safe. Then I was directed where to sit and walked over, book in hand, ironically anxious to get back to “patience.”

And then she said “hello.” It was my friend from the Muslim Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh here in Monroeville. It was so nice to see each other; it had been so long and I had almost forgotten what I had been missing for over a year: all of the interfaith gatherings that were not only meetings. The small talk. The reminder that Ramadan was soon to start. Being welcomed into one another’s houses of worship with kindness, prayer, and traditional food. We wished each other well and I wished her a peaceful Ramadan and we each sat in our chairs and then went on our separate ways.

It took me a few days to think about how our encounter may have appeared to onlookers. Maybe it was not unusual for them or maybe it was: a traditionally-dressed Muslim woman and a kippah-clad Jewish woman so joyful to see one another.

In that room, so much had occurred: patience, gratitude, blessing, diversity, selfcare, equality, friendship. To me, it is a miracle that the vaccines have been developed, proven and administered so quickly. Can we take that idea forward and make our own miracles? If each of us would devote even a bit of our day to developing the soul traits that showed up in that room, we would each be doing our part to inoculate our world against the not-so-invisible viruses of hate, racism, inequality.

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