Houses of the Holy


This is the gifted and talented Kayla Goldstein’s contribution to a project that NCSY is rapidly putting together for a special Haggadah this Passover.  It has been an unusual year to say the least, one in which the Chinese Year of the Rat somehow morphed into the Year of the Bat.

Kayla (our granddaughter) has her fingers on the pulse of the moment, blending the symbolism of personal protection and historic distancing within the context of the בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, the House of the Holy.  Jews world-wide have suddenly been thrust into their houses, with admonitions to self-quarantine and hunker down to elude the invisible coronavirus twister.  Of necessity, ritual and prayer have been converted from communal Houses of the Holy to personal Houses of the Holy.  In that sense the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah place all of humanity in the same boat.

And within the lyrics of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, a biblical allusion to the state we find ourselves in, nearly as isolated as the family members in Noah’s ark (ironically, the world’s first cruise ship).  As Robert Plant and Jimmy Page wrote:

“From the houses of the holy, we can watch the white doves go … “

When will the metaphorical white dove appear with the sign that it is safe to return to society?  If Genesis is any indication, we may need to phase ourselves back in.  When Noah first sent out the white dove, it found no dry land and returned to its quarantined master for another seven days.  The  dove was released seven days later and this time returned with an olive branch signaling that dry land was safe at hand.

“From the houses of the holy, we can watch the white doves go … “

How should we, in the United States, phase ourselves back to the society we abandoned in order to stay alive?  Intuitively it feels like survivors bearing immunity are the new white doves.  Ideally, when the tide of the virus sufficiently recedes, every one of us would be tested.  Virologists and public health officials would have to decide on the first wave who would be allowed to disembark the ark.  Would it be those who have developed immunity?  Is having developed immunity an effective hedge against being re-infected? To what extent can convalescent plasma from these patients be used to aid severely ill patients?  When we re-integrate society, will it be a gradual removal of masks and gloves rather than an abrupt one?  Will we require “at risk” patients to re-integrate later rather than sooner?

Will disinfectant wipes be as commonplace as tissues and napkins for a period of time?  Will social distancing gradually diminish?  Will bowing replace handshakes and “shomer negiah” be the norm within as well as among the sexes?  Will there be a moratorium limiting the maximum number of people permitted at gatherings?  Beyond virology and public health, will rabbinic laws change so that Pasteur invades the Spiritual, and require that soap be added to the ritual of washing hands before every meal?

We are still, collectively, in the stage of formulating an appropriate range of questions. Getting the answers right will be crucial in countering the next pandemic.

“From the houses of the holy, we can watch the white doves go … “

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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2 Responses to Houses of the Holy

  1. doctuhdon says:

    Beautiful artwork by Kayla and a most insightful and inspirational post by Grandpa Len !!!

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