I was on suicide watch for a patient a few years ago. After a long series of emails and text messages and phone calls, the psychiatrist, the therapist, the patient and I were all satisfied they were safe. After the dust settled, I mentioned to the therapist that I had recommended a book to the patient by Rabbi Naomi Levy. “Are you mixing religion and medicine?” she texted back.
The beginning of Parashat Bo feels like the kind of long slide into the abyss I wrote about two weeks ago.
With the plague of fiery hailstones just ended, God sends the locusts. “They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the surviving remnant that was left to you after the hail,” Moshe and Aharon warn Pharaoh (Shmot 10:5).
In the months after the October 27th, 2018, terror attack in Pittsburgh, I had one consistent source of solace, the site of the last hopeful thing that happened to me immediately before the attack: the newborn nursery, where scarcely an hour before the shooting started I made my rounds with my tiniest, most precious patients. I was often late to work those months, lingering extra minutes in each room, snuggling every baby for no reason other than to bask in the calm of a sleeping newborn. I would leave the house for rounds some days and tell my wife I was going to therapy.
Early in the pandemic, we said and did a lot of things that made little sense. Recommendations changed almost daily. We gravely took specific precautions that turned out to be useless, like hanging plexiglass shields and buying stores out of toilet paper. And we talked a lot about “silver linings,” like how glad we were to take a break from working in offices or wearing dress clothes. Twenty-one months on, the recommendations still change faster than we can keep up with, precautions we thought we finally had figured out now turn out again to be minimally effective, and the only silver lining I see is in my hair.