Monday, March 16, 2020


Thoughts on the Coronavirus
Click here to view as PDF

Dear Friends,

I have experienced the past few days with the constant discomfort of thoughts and feelings of vulnerability. Unknowingly thrust into this situation of uncertainty has brought forth in me the difficult emotions of doubt and confusion.

I have, as a result, more than once reflected upon the difference between vulnerability and weakness. Brené Brown explained that according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word vulnerability is derived from the Latin word vulnerare, meaning “to wound.” The definition includes “capable of being wounded,” and “open to attack or damage.” Weakness, however, is “the inability to withstand attack or wounding.” Brown noted that weakness often stems from a lack of vulnerability, because when we don’t acknowledge how and where we’re tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt.[1]

Ironically, I began to think about this topic in the days leading up to Purim. At a time that now feels like “the distant past,” I pondered a concept that I did not imagine would soon become real. Hearing from Mordekhai about the dangers awaiting the Jews of Ahashverosh's kingdom, Esther sent back to him: 

All the king's servants and the people of the king's province know that every man and woman who comes into the inner court without having been called, the single rule is to put to death, unless the king reach out to him the golden scepter. And as for me, I have not been called to come to the king thirty days now. (Esther 4:11-12)
Her message was clear: Stepping foot into the king's inner court spelled a dangerous loss of control. Esther would not accept such a circumstance. Mordekhai's response to her was legendary:
Do not imagine to escape of all the Jews in the house of the king. For if you indeed remain silent, relief and rescue will come to the Jews from elsewhere, and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether for just a time like this you have attained royalty? (4:14-15)
He taught Esther that although her position as queen may have had the outward appearance and trappings of stability, her actual standing was no different than anyone else’s. Mordekhai told her that we are always vulnerable. While we may deceive ourselves into the belief that we do control our fate, it is the times of crisis that force us to realize that we do not. Reminding Esther of this fundamental truth, Mordekhai offered her the decision of succumbing to the pressure and exposing her weakness in a continued state of self-denial, or admitting to the vulnerability and bravely rising above.

Madeleine L'Engle wrote: "When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable."[2] At a time like the present, when uncertainty is pervasive, it is easy to despair. Being true to ourselves, however, we must soberly realize that life was never predictable. Admitting this will inspire us to look at the days and weeks ahead with a refreshing sense of courage and strength. 

We do not know what the future holds in store. But we never did. We are vulnerable. But we are not weak.

Wishing you safety and strength,

Rabbi Avi Harari

[1] Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead (New York, NY, 2012), pg. 39.
[2] Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (New York, NY, 2016), pg. 182.