A Bounty of Bounty

For all of the volumes handed down through eons of Judaic scholarship, the greatest wisdom seems to come from a timeless joke:

A woman calls on the rabbi for help:

“Rabbi, I don’t know what to do! Our house is so tiny, with the children crying and my husband’s snoring, and all of us crammed together, tripping over each other and sleeping on top of one another. There’s no room to breathe, or think or get out of each other’s way!”

The rabbi asks, “Do you have a cow?”

“Of course,” she replies.

“Then bring the cow inside.”

Astonished, the woman protests, but finally relents. And she returns to complain the next day, “Rabbi! I brought the cow inside, and it’s so much worse! What are we going to do?”

“You have chickens? Bring them in the house with you. That will help.”

“But rabbi, she complains…” And he convinces her to bring the chickens in.

Sure enough, the third day, she’s back to tell the rabbi it’s getting ridiculous inside with the animals clucking and pooping everywhere. But the rabbi insists to the woman, “Nu? You need to bring in your horse, and your donkey, your ducks, and all the sheep. Bring every last one of them into your house.”

“Are you crazy, rabbi?” she asks. But he convinces here to bring every one of the family’s animals under her roof. And as expected, the distraught woman returns the next day to tell the rabbi that living like this has become entirely impossible.

“Aha!” says the rabbi. “Go back home and bring out the cow, and the chickens, and the horse, and the sheep and the donkey, and the ducks and sheep. Bring them all out and see if that’s better.”

The woman couldn’t contain her excitement when she came back the next day. “Rabbi! It’s wonderful! We brought the animals back outside, and now it’s just us! There’s so much room in the house, it’s enough for dancing! Thank you! Thank you!”

Knowing all we already have to be grateful for can at times bewilder us, especially when we’re inundated with legions of data points, like Noah’s flood in the “information Age.” Yet our heart wisdom already knows it’s all around us.

I began the year with a prayer for vision in 2020, hardly imagining how much our lives around the planet could be upended in so many ways by a microscopic virus.

Who could have fully comprehended how interconnected our lives are, how tightly woven the fabric is of our dependence on one another and how deeply we look to one another for being present to comfort and touch, to care for and help each other daily, in so many ways.

I know it’s glib for me to say the novel Coronavirus has helped us appreciate how rich our lives are together, especially since I have my own health and don’t know anyone personally who has lost their life to COVID or lost a loved one to the virus.

My health, in fact, is always the piece of my life I acknowledge most fundamentally, along with the love of people in my life and my extended community. And that community, I try always to appreciate, extends outward to include the people I depend on — often unrecognized until they’re not there, including the neighbors and “essential workers” like the garbage man, the grocery clerks, farmers, mail carriers, police and firefighters. And oh, the teachers, of whom we ask so much to help us and our children to understand.

And especially, in these times, it’s clear how important we depend on the dedication of our nurses, doctors and health care workers, along with the scientists who guide us to understand how to get past this monumental calamity and prevent the next. My heart goes out to these tireless workers as they face an epidemic of those who would take them for granted.

Yet even as we heed warnings to isolate physically from one another, as we struggle — especially those of us who are truly alone and those in need of basic resources like food, heat and shelter — this pandemic has slowed our sense of time, simplified our lives to face directly the real challenges and appreciate the true blessings that may have escaped us by being so omnipresent: the caring, the interdependence,

Especially in a time when our social cohesion is tested by a deep cynicism, distrust and even a deepened confusion between fact and fiction, we need to pull together in common gratitude as we look to a way to come together, to be there for one another in a way that truly embraces a commitment to true justice.

Because if we’re truly grateful, we need to live our lives embarcing the Nguni principle of unbuntu, "I am because we are" though we literally depend on one another and on every single other being.

In this golden moment of clarity, we can see that’s because we truly do.

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