Religious Life

Thank You, Lois! – A Weekly Letter From Rabbi Davis – April 12, 2019

Shalom Chaverim,

I want to tell you about one of Beth El’s unsung heroes, Lois Siegel. But let me first give some background by sharing a teaching from the Torah.

Our parasha this week and last week speak to the issue of isolation in the face of illness. Those who suffered from a disease called tzara’at were quarantined and forced to call out, “Impure, impure” (Lev. 13:45). The medieval Spanish commentator, Abraham Ibn Ezra, explains that they did so to warn others to keep away lest they too get infected. Troubled by this idea that the patient is secluded and removed from human contact, the rabbis understand the cry, “Impure, impure” in radically different terms. It is not meant to keep others away but to remind them to pray for the one suffering tzara’at (Niddah 66a). It is a call for help, a plea to not be forgotten that break the loneliness of isolation.

This rabbinic interpretation, writes Rabbi Shai Held in his book, The Heart of Torah, reminds community that despite his illness and impurity, “the metzora is still a human being who deserves and is entitled to the care and concern of the community as a whole.”

For over a decade, Lois Siegel has been answering that call. Writing cards on behalf of Beth El, she has reached out to those in need of support. In so doing, she has relieved them of their isolation, pain and sorrow and brought them a measure of comfort.

Lois wrote her first note on November 13, 2007 and to date has written 1268 cards to Beth El members! My hand cramps up just thinking about it. Lois explains: “I sent many different kinds of notes: get well, condolences, new baby, thinking of you, thank yous to volunteers, new home, flooded kitchen, surgery and accident… It has been a privilege to be a part of such a caring group.”

Today, Lois has decided to step down from this role. We are grateful for her years of dedication, for her compassion and acts of kindness. Thank you, Lois!

We would like to continue this act of bikkur cholim and invite you to be in touch with Cantor Abrams if you are willing to help.

Beyond our Yad V’Lev committee, each of us can reach out to those isolated and in need now as Pesach approaches and in the days that follow.

Rabbi Alexander Davis