COVID-19 has elevated the prominence of the word “essential.” We have been speaking about essential services, essential workers, essential businesses, and so on.
For disciples of Yeshua, the pandemic has also sharpened our sense of what is essential. What would you say the pandemic is teaching us about what is essential? There are lots of good answers to my question. Prudence is essential. Community is essential. Vision is essential. There is a special service on Yom Kippur that serves as a reminder that “creativity” is also “essential” as we press on through the pandemic.
Just before sunset on Erev Yom Kippur, the prayer service called Kol Nidre takes place in synagogues across the world. Kol Nidre means “all vows.” It is a time to ask HaShem to release us and forgive us for careless and unfulfilled vows and promises made in the previous year. The Kol Nidre custom has an interesting history. It is believed to have started in the middle ages when many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity and Islam under the threat of death. When these Jews were able to reengage with the Jewish community, they were in a predicament because of the Christian or Muslim “vow” that they had taken. As a creative resolution, Kol Nidre was composed as a legal formula that served to release Jews from these vows and allow them to participate fully and freely in the Jewish community.
The origin of Kol Nidre is an example of exercising creativity to alleviate a serious spiritual and legal dilemma in the Jewish community. During times of distress and challenge, creativity is frequently not a luxury. It is often a requirement for survival.
The pandemic that began in 5780 and is still present as we begin 5781 is requiring the disciples of Yeshua to be creative in unprecedented ways. Life has changed, but times of crisis almost always include new opportunities. This season of challenge is no different. We can exercise creativity in new ways to not only maintain our spiritual health but also to grow it.
I spoke to a pastor this morning who mentioned to me that because his church cannot meet safely for services, they created a way for families to gather in small groups for fellowship, prayer, and Bible study. As the Director of Torah Club, the pastor’s “creativity” resonated with me because that is exactly what our Torah Clubs do each week. In Torah Club, we also have exercised some “essential creativity” by modifying our Remote Access Policy.
This fall holiday season, I encourage you to pause and ask what we are learning through this pandemic. What is essential? How can we exercise creativity to not only survive but also flourish during this season? By asking these questions, we may find that HaShem leads us toward answers that will create new experiences that help us to advance God’s kingdom and our own closeness to him.