D’var Torah: Self Isolation

Written by Rabbi Hannah Kingston — 22 July 2021

On Thursday morning a notification appeared on my phone saying:

You are at risk of spreading coronavirus and should stay home. Please self isolate for the full period advised by your isolation countdown tracker to protect others.


As I opened the app, a glaring red circle flashed in front of me. I will be free in 7 days.


I would love to be on the bimah with my Alyth colleagues this week, at this service that feels momentous in the scheme of the past 18 months. But instead I am home, keeping my colleagues and my congregants, my Alyth family, safe.


As the world reopens, we have been informed that it is now the people’s responsibility to ‘make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus.’


With each interaction that we have, comes responsibility. In a world of endemic, we know that no action comes without risk, that each unmasked face to face conversation or elbow bump, brings with it a potential 10 days of isolation. In this time of uncertainty, we must take on the continued obligation to be a source of protection for one another.


As Rabbi Josh wrote last week, as the world reopens, it is important for each of us to think not only of our own needs or comfort levels, but also of others.


For the large numbers of immunosuppressed, those not yet vaccinated and those for whom the vaccine will not work, the impending relaxing restrictions do not bring feelings of joy, but fear of an increasing threat to life.


Over the past year we have repeated the phrase, Kol Yisrael Arevim, zeh ba zeh, we are all responsible for one another. We know that the ways in which we choose to act over the coming weeks will have direct implications on the lives of others.


But perhaps even more importantly we need to carry with us the phrase, ‘u’ch’sheani l’atzmi ma ani’ , translated by Rabbi Josh last Shabbat as, When I am for me, what am I? When we put our own needs at the forefront, above those of others, what are we?



With that in mind, despite my double vaccination, my 4 days worth of negative lateral flow tests, and my overall feeling of wellness, the discomfort of isolation is minimal compared to the threat I could potentially have on those around me. As the world, and our building, reopens, we must act for the sake of Pikuach Nefesh, keeping the lives of others safe, knowing that our wants are not more important than other’s needs.  We must look beyond ourselves and our desires, to journey together.



As we turn to the words of the hashkiveinu, reciting it together for the last time before we enter a world unbound by government guidelines, we continue to pledge to keep one another safe. We prepare ourselves to face moments of discomfort, of isolation, of putting the other before ourselves, knowing that the virus is still a reality and that we and those around us are not invincible. We look to God for a shelter of safety, and vow to be that for one another, allowing all to move forward in their own way and at their own pace, so that one day we may all rise again to enjoy life.