"Mystery magnifies danger, as fog the sun. The hand that warned Belshazzar derived its horrifying effect from the want of a body." -- Charles Caleb Colton
The story is told that Belshazzar saw a disconnected hand begin to draw a line on the wall as he feasted. He didn't know the reason or the meaning. He didn't know that it was related to the very meal he was eating, to the fact that he was eating from vessels stolen from the Jerusalem Temple. He didn't know that the disconnected hand was a symbol for the impending end of his own kingdom, and for his death. But he knew enough to be afraid, to worry, to look for help in explaining the wonder playing out before him.
An enormous part of what scared Belshazzar was that he didn't understand what was happening. It was strange to him, mysterious, out of the ordinary. But another part of what was scary was that he simply couldn't see the rest of the body. What was directing the hand? Where was its power and intent coming from?
Today we find ourselves in a similar situation to Belshazzar. We don't understand the forces affecting our lives. We can't see what is happening or why it is happening. All we know is that small snippets of news come through and we are left to connect the dots, make lines, and hopefully constitute a picture. That picture is meant by us to correspond with reality. If we're lucky it isn't completely different.
This difficulty is true not just of the general response to the pandemic but of other parts of our lives as well. The people around us have complex lives we constantly try to interact with and understand. Rarely are we wholly successful. As Yom Kippur approaches, let's try to be forgiving to those we don't understand. We might not understand why they did something. We might think we know the whole picture, and that it was wrong. But we don't know. Let's be forgiving and hope that others will be as well. For the sake of unity, for the sake of the coming year, and for the sake of our community, let's all try to be as forebearing and understanding as possible. It should be easier than usual when we don't see others and know less than usual around them, but let's even try to carry it forward when our state does eventually reopen.