March 16, 2020 — 20 Adar 5780
On Friday David Brooks of the New York Times cautioned that though combating COVID-19 has joined us in common cause, fear can bring out the worst in people. His cautionary words were an appeal that we allow our Yaser Hatov (good inclination) to defeat our Yaser Hara (evil inclination). While that’s easier said than done, how do we allow our Yaser Hatov to triumph in a time of extreme stress?
The name of this weeks Parsha, Vayakel contains the answer. Vayakel means “and he gathered”. Do to fear that Moshe had vanished, Bnei Yisrael panicked and devolved into a riotous mob disgracefully dancing around the Egel Zahav Golden Calf (Shemot – Exodus – Chapter 32). Moshe realized that breaking the Luchot (tablets) and saving the people from divine extermination was not enough. In the long run, in order for the people to be successful, he would have to rebuild the social order. Moshe realized that simply gathering the people together after the calamity would not be sufficient. He would have to find ways of bringing the people together.
Therefore, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out, Moshe reminds the people that they share sacred time together as a community on a weekly basis in the form of Shabbat. Shabbat builds community because it ensures that each person in the community, regardless of social status, shares the same day of rest. Moshe then continues to rebuild community by uniting the people in common cause by commanding them to build the Mishkan (tabernacle) which is to serve as a place for Hashem to rest his name among the nation. In other words, Moshe is creating a Hashem-centered social order.
So, how do we maintain social order during this time of anxiety when social distancing is being advised?
- Make extra effort to stay in touch with people. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe you will rekindle a friendship.
- Pray for those who are sick. Just open your Siddur and recite the Mishaberach L’holim (prayer for the sick) or recite a psalm on behalf of those who are sick.
- Take advantage of online learning opportunities. I will endeavor to send out a daily Torah message. Join us for a virtual Parsha and Pizza at 6 PM on Wednesday via “Google Hangouts.” Just click on [link removed] (or copy and paste this in your browser) and then press the green tab allowing you to join. If you have trouble, call in at [link removed].
Sorry … you will need to bring your own pizza!
During this time of anxiety and isolation, it is a mitzvah to do whatever you can to remind yourself that we are all in this together.
May Hashem grant all of those who are in need of healing a Refuah Shlayma and let us respond, “Amen.”
Rabbi Steven Saks