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Community Spread

Friday, 6 March, 2020 - 6:12 am

This week, I went to 5 stores and called another 3 before giving up on finding hand sanitizer locally.

Thank G-d, my wife called me from a supermarket today, insisting that I come immediately because they had hand sanitizer. She was able to purchase some, but they were rationing. In order for us to purchase enough for our large family and for the Chabad Jewish Center, I quickly drove over to get a few more bottles.

Coronavirus has hopefully not arrived in Boise at this point. But, coronavirus fever sure has.

In fact, our community trip to Israel, which was planned for next week, has been indefinitely postponed due to Israel’s strict enforcement of COVID-19 precautions.

The concern facing us in our communities is no longer the scientific mystery and travel precautions. Now, we are addressing community spread. To be sure, Idaho does not have any confirmed coronavirus cases at the moment. Other than normal hygienic protocols, the state has not issued any specific guidelines.

Like all viruses, the coronavirus can spread from person to person. With community spread, thousands of people can be impacted by one person’s infected status.

What kind of lesson can we learn from this unprecedented situation?

***

In this week’s parsha Tetzaveh we are taught about the priestly garments. The kohanim (priests) officiated in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) every day on behalf of the Jewish people. Every priest was required to wear four holy vestments at all times of service.

The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) wore an additional four garments. One of those was the Choshen (Breastplate). The breastplate has 12 precious stones sewn into it, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

It would be easy for us to assume that the kohanim were a privileged class of citizens. Certainly, they were chosen by G-d for this sacred task. However, their primary function was to serve on behalf of the people.

When the Kohen kindled the menorah, in him was vested the energies, devotion and spiritual identity of every Jew. When the Kohen Gadol walked around with the Choshen, he was not only representing every Jew, he was actually bringing the spirit of every Jew with him into the holy sanctum.

It was not merely a symbolic gesture.

If this is difficult to imagine, perhaps the coronavirus can help us understand. It is another reminder that the physical universe contains so many microscopic opportunities to share from one person to thousands of others.

Now, imagine a spiritual universe, where the transmission of ‘matter’ does not require the same conditions as physical material. Spiritual entities can spread much more easily.

*

Another example would be in the Purim story.

When Esther was about to approach King Achashverosh to beg for her and her people’s lives, she first asked Mordechai to, “Go and gather all the Jews who are in Shushan and fast for my sake, do not eat and do not drink for three days, night and day.”

Through the fasting and praying of thousands of Jews, Esther – like Jews throughout history – believed that her petition to the king would succeed. The spiritual energy would bolster her case.

***

The lesson from all of these is identical.

Germs (biological and spiritual) must be kept at bay.

Goodness, kindness and holiness, on the other hand, must be spread with contagion.

Let us pray that Hashem answers our prayers and allows the physical virus to swiftly cede, with only spirituality infectiously spreading throughout our communities.

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