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a Positive unintended consequence

07/16/2020 08:34:49 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I have come to learn that sometimes good things can occur at a later time after something bad. I like to call them positive unintended consequences. For example, in the days, weeks and months after 10.27, doors that had not yet opened (granted, I was only in Pittsburgh for fifteen months) sprung open. It takes time to build relationships, but the compassion displayed and generosity of spirit provided access that I am working on to nourish and grow these fledgling relationships.  There are many more examples of which I am grateful.

We have suffered nearly 140,000 deaths in the United States due to the pandemic, and have yet to create an appropriate way to mourn these losses. Not that this could ever compare, but there have been positive unintended consequences.  While some might mutter aloud or under their breath the curses of technology, there are blessings as well.  Let’s take the Passover Seder as an example. There would have been only four people at our table, but through technology, family that would not have been present even without the pandemic were seen by all and able to participate. I held a communal Seder the following evening, and congregants joined with non-congregants, as people who had nowhere to go and would have sat at home alone now had a community to join.  A positive unintended consequence.

We livestream our Friday evening services through our Facebook page, and a major television network also carries the feed through their webpage.  Roughly 300-350 people view the service every week.  This tells me that there are people looking for connection and community, and I am humbled and gratified if they feel that they find it with us. I offer two adult education classes during the week (shameless plug), on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I have participants not only from around the country, but also a young woman from Australia.  People looking for community. A positive unintended consequence.

We have been able to virtually tour countries and museums, see opera, concerts, musicals and symphonies all from our computers. Anyone could register to take a class in nearly anything from A to Z, from the computer.  Positive unintended consequences.

People whom I never thought might master the necessary skills have been able to join in. Old friends have reconnected. New friendships have formed.  Social groups now meet regularly via the computer. All positive unintended consequences.

I would not be so bold as to suggest how all of this impacts our future, but it has been revolutionary. Meetings will permanently change. So will education, worship and the arts.  Of course the one person who predicted these changes correctly (as opposed to the thousands that predicted incorrectly) will be hailed as the newest of prophets. But there is one thing that will change in a less than optimal way: human contact. We are a species that craves physical contact, and that will change in yet undetermined ways.  I hold out hope that we work this out together, for the needs of everyone, so that upon reflection we might say: a positive unintended consequence.

Tue, August 11 2020 21 Av 5780