We have a quaint little custom in our synagogue whereby at the conclusion of the service, everybody joins hands and lifts voices collectively in the recitation of the Motzi, the prayer before we break bread. As much as I love the connectivity of the community, I hate this little exercise in germ warfare. It is a proven fact that most viruses are passed on by simple person-to-person contact, and frankly, I don't always know where those hands have been. I have always thought that a dab of Purell should be required before we link around the room. At the height of the SARS crisis here in the GTA, we temporarily suspended our practice and grabbed forearms instead. I felt much better knowing that those insidious little buggers didn't have as much chance for survival on people's clothing as they did on the warm host of the human flesh. But, while the grabbing of forearms may provide for some fraternal bonding, it does not provide for the true human contact that people crave, and so we have resumed the joining of hands. I love the idea of the practice, I just hate the practice of the idea!
You see, I am extremely susceptible to the rhinovirus, also know as the common cold. I always have been. As a kid, I was sick at a minimum of 4 or 5 times during the school year. If it was going around, I caught it! It got so that I knew with the first scratch and itch of the throat that something was coming, and it was never easy. The watery eyes, congestion in the nose that inevitably found the chest, fever, chills--the whole enchilada! I learned to live with constant tissues falling out of my sleeves or pockets, and Vicks Vapo-Rub on my pajamas and sheets.
In my first year of marriage, I was afflicted with pneumonia, and was sidelined for weeks. The coughing was so severe that I cracked a rib, and the husband sent me to his doctor for a narcotic so that HE could sleep. (Never again. I was so loopy that I don't remember much of that time. I could have stripped naked and danced on the roof and not known about it. Maybe I did and that is why the neighbours were so odd for weeks after!) The residual effect of that illness was adult onset asthma. I have suffered with it ever since, and as such, the common cold has become much more of a hardship. The effects linger in my chest for weeks, and in my line of work, I can ill afford the brutality that the hacking and coughing inflicts.
And so, as I grew older and wiser, I learned how to better wage the preemptive battles. I learned to eat better and I tried to sleep better, though not always successfully. I took up exercise and found that it boosted my immune system, even while it caused aches and pains of a different sort. I became a freak about hand washing and I taught my boys the same. If anyone brought home a bug that was better left elsewhere, we washed and scrubbed and took great care with communal surfaces. It didn't always work, but it reduced my sick days markedly. I carry around hand sanitizer in my purse for the emergency situations like the Motzi and I avoid the sick people like the plague. (pun absolutely intended!) Nothing is foolproof however, or even Dawn-proof (some might argue that these are one and the same!) and so, today I find myself wheezing, dripping and coughing. (The only comfort I take from this fact is that my Kol Isha colleagues are ALL wheezing, dripping and coughing as well!! Now I know where it came from!) Since we all have two weeks until the concert to recover, the old adage of "timing is everything" could never have been more apropos.
So, here I sit with my green tea, "blankie", foot duvets (these are fantastic--find them at Restoration Hardware!!), tissues, hot water bottle and Vicks Vapo-Rub staining my pajamas in an effort to be well enough to sing this weekend at Shabbat services, a B'nai Mitzvah and a wedding! No rest for the weary, I suppose. I do know one thing. I will NOT be joining hands for the Motzi. I refuse to pass this misery on to anyone else.
Shabbat Shalom to all who observe.