Coronaspection: Introspection XIII

Coronaspection: Introspection XIII: Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn, Elder Jeffrey Holland, Rabbi Dov Singer

Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel. From Tablet

Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Executive Director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel, is the author of The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism: History, Spirituality, Identity.

The final Introspection featured in Tablet Magazine in the “Coronaspection” series presents the following leaders: Kardinal Christoph Schönborn, Jeffrey R. Holland and Rabbi Dov Singer.

This introspection relates to religious leaders, but not in terms of their roles and service, but in terms of their personal experience and transformation, during COVID-19. All too often we lose sight of how religious leaders are also individuals who are in process and of the contribution of their personal experiences to their broader contribution as leaders. The final three interviews in our series place the light on processes and transformations of a more personal and intimate nature, shared by participating leaders.

Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel. From Tablet

Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Executive Director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute, Israel, is the author of The Jewish Encounter with Hinduism: History, Spirituality, Identity.

There is a special power in the coming together of religious leaders in their diversity to deliver a message at a given point in time, especially a time of global crisis. Forty important voices are taking part in this project. I am grateful to editors of Tablet magazine for their eagerness to feature the project in its entirety.

Together, we set out to answer seven questions:

  1. What have been your greatest challenges in dealing with the present Corona crisis?

  2. Corona is bringing out a lot of fear in people. How does one deal with fear? What spiritual advice could you offer to people struggling with fear?

  3. Corona has forced people into solitude. How should time be spent in solitude? Many people do not have experience and habits that would allow them to make the most of this opportunity. What advice could they be given?

  4. Corona brings about deprivation. We are deprived of our freedom, of our habits. We lose things, and even more so- people we love. How does one deal with all forms of deprivation?

  5. What does Corona teach us about our interconnectivity? What are spiritual applications that people can practice consciously?

  6. Corona forces us into our own protective space, but it also calls us to solidarity. How to practice solidarity? What are teachings that support solidarity? What actions express solidarity? What can one do to express solidarity, even from within the confines of one's home and protection?

  7. Many people say the world will be different after this Corona crisis. What blessings do you see Corona bringing to the world? How can the world be different, for the better, following this crisis?

One of the most important conceptual threads that runs through the project is the recognition that for all its hardships, the coronavirus is in some way also a blessing. To uncover that blessing we may need the eyes of the other and the experience of another spiritual tradition and how it is able to find blessing even in hardship.

Introspection 13

Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn, Austria

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is an Austrian Cardinal of the Catholic Church and theologian. He currently serves as the Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Bishops Conference. In this revealing interview he shares his own fears and struggles, in what is in fact the first major crisis in his lifetime. We draw courage from the historical recollection that God does not abandon us and that God is the eternal one. To be free of fear of death is a condition to be happy in this life.Corona teaches us not to take anything for granted. We appreciate things in a new way. We also have to realize that solidarity does not end at the border of our country. The global plague evokes the notion of the dark night that we are passing through. In this we need to learn to live the question, and live it with hope. Light is coming.

Elder Jeffrey Holland, USA

Elder Jeffrey Holland is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. An educator and administrator, he is one of the highest ranking leaders in the Church. In this revealing exchange, Elder Holland shares how this period provides a first stop after forty years of intense activity. This is a transformative moment for him and it hastransformative potential for the entire Church. With more time to pray and with the deepening that is brought about by relative solitude, the sense of care for the other is made more real and more a specific to all. It also expands and is universalized, drawing closer to his awareness the fundamental realization that we are all children of one father. With this broadening and deepening of vision come new opportunities and possibilities for how he, as a leader of the Church, would wish to see the Church’s service to humanity in the future and how this recovery of a deeper unity might translate in its policies and priorities.

Rabbi Dov Singer, Israel

Rabbi Dov Singer is a noted educator in the religious-Zionist sector in Israel. He heads Yeshivat Mekor Chayim and is a founder of a movement of prayer groups that seek to deepen the experience of prayer. Of all participants in this project, Rabbi Singer is the only one to have contracted the Corona virus. The interview thus shares Rabbi Dov’s own process and the insights he gained going through the illness. One must accept to be weak, to be silent, to listen and not to rush back immediately to one’s previous state. Solitude is a means of peeling the shells around one and therefore was preferred by him to filling the time with communication. A deep tension was felt between the need for solitude and intimacy and the showing of public support and prayer for his healing. Rabbi Singer developed a four-step meditation, based on biblical sources, for going inwards, which he shares here. The closer one is to one’s own intimacy, solidarity increases in a broad sense. This leads to a universal identification with all. The divine maternal aspect comes to the fore as a means of extending compassion and identifying with all. The biggest fear was the possibility of harming others by infecting them and dealing with the ensuing guilt. Fear must be raised to its source and eventually leads to love for all.

What does this introspection teach us?