Stories to quell pandemic fears

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

I have sent to you, my dear readers, along with my prayers for your safety and for the safety of those you love a four-part spiritual vaccine against the most corrosive symptom of the plague and that is despair. The vaccine introduces hope into our spiritual systems. Thank you so much for those of you who wrote to me to tell me that it was of help to you.

Now it is time to tell some stories.

Passover for Judaism is a story built on the truth of freedom. Easter for Christianity is a story built on the truth of salvation from sin. Please, send me your stories about people who have done hopeful and loving things during this time of fear and isolation.

Here is my story: Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Encino, California, is my friend. I have been teaching Torah online with Ed on his synagogue website ( You can access it. We have done three sessions together. Ed told a story in his interview with Rabbi David Wolpe that I am pleased to tell here.

A woman was standing in line at a grocery store and was holding back tears explaining to the clerk that all the toilet paper had been scooped up from the shelves by hoarders and she had come out only to get some toilet paper. The man behind her had a big package of toilet paper rolls that he immediately ripped it open and gave half the rolls to the woman. The clerk looked at both of them and said, "Both of you go on through. I am not charging you for it. Anyway, I don't know how to ring up half a package of toilet paper."

Mother Teresa taught, "God does not command us to do great things. God commands us to do little things with great love." I am not sure if sharing toilet paper qualifies but this week, I think it does.


I received this lovely note from L:

"I am sure you all have seen this, but just in case you haven't. Just what I needed to read." This is a poem written by Brother Richard Hendrick, a Capuchin Franciscan living in Ireland,


Yes, there is fear.


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