June 18, 2021
The Blessing of Facebook
Dear Holy Friends,
I hope this letter finds you in good health and enjoying the beginning of the summer season. It is miraculous to see the world “opening-up,” which is offering us occasions to re-engage with friends, neighbors and community.
Over the course of the last year, I can guarantee you that I, like many others, spent more hours on Facebook than usual. Facebook provided a convenient platform for keeping up with friends, family, and acquaintances, to hear about their personal and professional successes, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
More recently, Facebook postings have lauded Israel as an example of proficiency in terms of vaccination distribution. This proficiency has led to the country completely lifting its mask restrictions in the last few days. In light of these developments, a colleague of mine posted on Facebook an original Beracha written by two female Rabbis.
The posting is entitled “The Blessing for the Removal of the Masks.” Although the blessing is more poetic in Hebrew than in the English, I will nonetheless share the following rough translation with you:
I am thankful to you (God) and you (my fellow human beings) For lovingkindness, healing, and the cessation of the plague, For the merit, to see the revealed faces of friends, For the expanded journey, which I may now march through this beautiful world, For attention to revived spirits, to which we now cleave, For the obligation to preserve the world and protect our fellow human beings.
With the removal of masks, we will encourage blessings and goodness,
Until quickly everyone in the world can utter,
The plague has finally ended (Bemidbar 17:15).
The Blessing for the Removal of the Masks is a beautiful example of contemporary rabbinic creativity. This liturgical innovation offers the Jewish community, as a whole, the possibility of addressing new situations through traditional words and familiar structures (note the usage of a familiar biblical quote regarding the ending of a plague).
The poem, I believe, is simple in style, conveys complex truths, and reminds us of ongoing societal challenges.
Finally, how profound that the poem is artistically presented in the style of a Ketuba! Any Ketuba reminds the Jewish reader of mutual responsibility and ongoing obligation. It also reminds the Jewish reader of the nature of the journey of life, which can be filled with moments of unbridled joy and moments of deep despair. And last, the Ketuba reminds the Jewish reader that the moment of the chuppah is akin to the beginning of a new life. Undoubtedly, the presentation of The Blessing for the Removal of Masks in this format is deliberate due to the multiple associations that it brings.
As we enter into Shabbat, whether with our masks on or off, may we recognize the power of new blessings, the inherent potential of this moment in time, and the enormous responsibility that we each carry daily, both for ourselves and others.
Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD