Message to the Rutgers Camden University Community
From Stuart Charmé, Faculty Adviser for Jewish students
What we are all going through now is testing our strength, our courage, and our hope about the future. In a situation like this, it is natural to feel helpless, frightened, and isolated. In times of crisis, many people turn to their religious traditions for comfort. However, social distancing has made it impossible for most people to congregate together to support each other. Some religious leaders have suggested that the need for staying at home and not being in contact with other people may also be an opportunity for inward reflection and meditation. Sometimes, when we reflect on traditional religious wisdom from the depths of a crisis, we notice new layers of meaning and unexpected applicability to the present situation. For the last few days I’ve been thinking about the wisdom of Hillel, a great Jewish sage from the first century BCE. He was probably an indirect influence on Jesus, who was born toward the end of Hillel’s life.
Hillel posed three rhetorical questions that can help guide our reflections in the extraordinary situation in the world today.
1. First, Hillel said “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
Being for yourself is often associated with being selfish, but Hillel understood that we always need to begin with a sense of our own unique worth and our own individual responsibility to take care of ourselves. In recent days, we have discovered whole new ways of taking care of ourselves, from washing our hands to closely monitoring our situations to avoid potential risks to our health. Self-care means girding ourselves mentally and spiritually to remain productive and hopeful even when our best plans seem to be dissolving before our eyes. The importance of taking care of ourselves has become a matter of utmost importance, possibly even a matter of life and death. Noone else can do these things for us. Only I can do what is necessary for myself.
2. Second, Hillel asked us to consider: “If I am only for myself, what am I?”
Focusing on our own well-being is crucially important, but it is not enough. We must care for ourselves in ways that are also contributing to the welfare of those around us. Caring for ourselves with panic, hoarding, and a philosophy of “every person for themselves” will not only backfire if more and more people think that way. It will reduce us to much less than what we can and need to be at this time. In caring for ourselves, we need to feel that we have a responsibility to more than just ourselves, to be people who are not just for themselves.
I have been struck by the difficult situation of healthcare workers who struggle to protect and care for themselves, so that they will continue to be available to help others. All of us should understand ways that our focus on ourselves will also be a lens through which we see beyond ourselves to the well-being of all those around us.
3. Third, Hillel reminds us of the urgency of the moment. He asked, “And if not now, when?”
Hillel knew that it is easy for people to put off what is necessary for their own well-being, as well as that of others. One of the most important lessons I take from reading and watching news every day is the cost of hesitation, delay, and failure to confront the limits imposed by time. In a general sense, everyone knows that the time in a person’s life is limited, and that wasted time is time lost forever. This reality has become incredibly compressed in the current situation. We hear daily pleas for immediate action and warnings about the incredibly high cost of delay. In all things that need to be done, from following the proven method of social distancing, to organizing the supplies and facilities necessary for medical responses, to simply reaching out to let the people in our lives know that we love them, the answer to Hillel’s question “if not now, when?” should be obvious to all of us.
Faculty Adviser for Jewish students
Chair, Department of Philosophy and Religion
March 25, 2020
Message to the Rutgers Camden University Community
From Sister Dorothy Giloley SSJ, Chaplain Catholic Campus Ministry
During this time of the Coronavirus Pandemic I offer my prayers and I reach out in compassion with hope and confidence that our God will bring us through this as our God has done many times in times of plague and epidemics through out the past centuries. The following is a prayer I ask all of you to pray with me:
A Prayer Amidst the Pandemic
O God, our protector, we come to you in this time of distress and anxiety as we with confidence in your Divine providence pray:
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care. Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another. Heal us from pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders. Be with those who have died from the virus. May they rest with you in your eternal peace. Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace. Be with the doctors, nurses, researches and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those afflicted and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace. Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth. Be with the students, faculty and staff and all who are part of the Rutgers Camden community and give all of us the strength and caring we need to face this pandemic together with hope and confidence in your healing presence, O God. Be with us wherever we are, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few. Stay with us, O God, as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace. Amen.
Adapted from the prayer in America by Kerry Weber.
Catholic Mass is being Live Streamed through the Camden Diocese. It can be found at www.camdendiocese.org along with other spiritual resources.
You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org