Everyone has something to say about our current pandemic. I have to admit that as of yet I don't have much of value to say. I am still in rabbinical school at American Jewish University. I am also pursuing a Masters in Education degree. In my spare time I am still selling books and also trying to start a Jewish communal organization to serve Downtown Los Angeles where I live now. If you know anybody who lives in Downtown or the Arts District or Echo Park who might be interested in something like that please feel free to put them in touch with me.
I did stumble on a text that I would like to share. (Credit and attribution are below). I hope to write some commentary on it down the line, but that might never happen. It is a dream text by Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. From the introduction by Nathan Sternharz we can surmise that the Rabbi Nahman either dreamed this dream or choose the moment to recount it to Nathan around the time of the full moon right after Hanukkah. It is, I think, a hopeful text for all us trying to deal with the fears and anxieties of the moment. May you be blessed with health of body and mind and the strength to persevere.
(The year 5567 [1806-7]) in Bratslav, during the week of Vayehi. After I had recited the sanctification of the moon on the moon on my own, he said to him, “Had you been joyous, it would have done the world a lot of good.” Then he told me this, that he had seen in a dream:
A large troop of soldiers was walking by, and behind them flew birds, a vast array of birds. I asked the person next to me, “Why are the birds flying behind them?” He replied, “They are there to help the soldiers.” When I asked how they could be of help, he continued, “These birds give off a certain fluid that causes the enemy troops to die. In that way they are helpful to the soldiers.” I was troubled by this response. The soldiers they are supporting are also nearby. When they give off that fluid, it could also harm them. Then I saw the birds coasting down to the ground until they were all walking right behind the soldiers. As they went they picked up round things, which weren’t food. I wondered how the birds were keeping up with the soldiers. Surely a man walks faster than a bird. What were they gathering? I was told that these were the source of that fluid that killed the enemy troop. (Several points were difficult for me, but I don’t remember them.)
I went into an enclosed place, and I found a very low doorway. I entered and lay down; it was a dark room, with no windows. I had gone in seeking to hide, and did. All the birds came in after me. I tried to chase them out, shooing them with my hands, but there was a cat standing outside. Birds run from cats, and that was why they had all come into the room. Because of the cat all my shooing did no good at all. “Why had they come here?” I asked. “Due to their pox,” they replied. “Why was that?” “The fluid used to kill the enemies was derived from their pox.” “Might not they also die of this pox?” Indeed they did, and the place where their bodies fell would become especially contaminated.
I was terribly upset, fearing that I would did from the stench of the dead birds, for there were many of them there. I prayed to God, blessed by He, over this, and the pox passed out of them there and they turned healthy. Then a single bird flew out, and all the others followed after him. A great shout broke forth in the world, “Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov!” And I too roared, “Mazel Tov!”
Translation by Arthur Green published in Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature, edited by David Stern and Mark Jay Mirsky. Sections in italics are the words of Nathan of Nemirov from the collection of Rabbi Nachman’s writings “Haye Moharan,” compiled and edited by Nathan of Nemirov.The Hebrew text can be found on Sefaria here.