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God Squad: Stories to quell pandemic fears and isolation

Passover for Judaism is a story built on

Passover for Judaism is a story built on the truth of freedom, writes Rabbi Marc Gellman. Credit: © Maglara | Dreamstime

I have sent to you, my dear readers, along with my prayers for your safety and the safety of those you love a four-part spiritual vaccine against the most corrosive symptom of the plague — despair. The vaccine introduces hope into our spiritual systems. Thank you so much for those of you who wrote to me to tell me that it was of help to you.

Now it is time to tell some stories.

Passover for Judaism is a story built on the truth of freedom. Easter for Christianity is a story built on the truth of salvation from sin. Please, send me your stories about people who have done hopeful and loving things during this time of fear and isolation.

Here is my story: Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Encino, California, is my friend. I have been teaching Torah online with Ed on his synagogue website ( We have done three sessions together. Ed told a story in his interview with Rabbi David Wolpe that I am pleased to tell here.

A woman was standing in line at a grocery store and was holding back tears explaining to the clerk that all the toilet paper had been scooped up from the shelves by hoarders and she had come out only to get toilet paper. The man behind her had a big package of toilet paper rolls that he immediately ripped it open and gave half the rolls to the woman. The clerk looked at both of them and said, "Both of you go on through. I am not charging you for it. Anyway, I don't know how to ring up half a package of toilet paper."

Mother Teresa taught, "God does not command us to do great things. God commands us to do little things with great love." I am not sure if sharing toilet paper qualifies but this week, I think it does.

I received this lovely note from L:

"I am sure you all have seen this, but just in case you haven't. Just what I needed to read." This is a poem written by Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland:


Yes, there is fear.

Yes, there is isolation.

Yes, there is panic buying.

Yes, there is sickness.

Yes, there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know

is busy spreading fliers with her number

through the neighborhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples

are preparing to welcome

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes, there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes, there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes, there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes, there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes, there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,


— March 13, 2020

A good cause

My brother Larry is a surgeon in the belly of this beast at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. I pray for his safety every day. He has partnered with Crutches 4 Kids, a wonderful charity that has repurposed itself from buying crutches to buying personal protective equipment for the national need. It is now called Frontline Heroes. I trust them. To donate go on (Tax ID: 27-1039186).

SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.

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