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Truly Contagious

Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 11:02 am

Some people wear masks, others don’t. Some have jobs, others don’t. Some are ill, others are healthy. Some have loved ones that have tragically succumbed to this disease; others don’t personally know anybody who is COVID-19 positive.

Some airlines require masks in order to board aircraft, others are stuffing people into every seat. Some businesses in Idaho will open today, others will remain shuttered.

As society knocks off the initial shock of life during COVID-19, the greater discussion is evolving into how we adjust to a more long-term coronavirus lifestyle.

The coronavirus has affected each of us differently. In the diverse society called America, what should be my attitude to all these varying degrees of reality? Whose concern is more important?

To be sure, I don’t play politics. I don’t foray into politics during normal times. Certainly not when lives are at stake. Nor am I a doctor or public health expert.

But, what does the Torah have to say? Is there perhaps a moral viewpoint of faith that can help guide us?

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This week’s double parsha of Acharei-Kedoshim teaches a lot about respecting one another. In fact, one of the most famous verses of the Torah appears in this week’s parsha:

“You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against any of your people; and you shall love your fellow as yourself.”

Now, brotherly love is a cornerstone of our faith. But why does the Torah begin by telling us not to seek revenge or bear a grudge and only then enjoin us to love one another. Should it not be the opposite? Why not stress the positive as the cornerstone that prevents the negative?

The following comment from the Jerusalem Talmud might shed some light on this:

How does one avoid acting vengefully? One should think: If a person were cutting meat and the knife cut his hand, would that hand cut the first hand in return?

The Torah is not only instructing us on proper behavior. It is spelling out the fundamental philosophy behind brotherly love. If we look at each other as separate entities, we will have a hard time loving each other. Instead we might find ourselves in a vengeful cycle.

Realizing that we all are part of one will not only help us overcome strife and disease, it will also enable us to employ true amity toward one another.

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Instead of thinking in terms of, “Why is he threatening my health?!” or, “What chutzpah for her to infringe on my rights!” – the Torah offers a different perspective. We are all in this together. In fact, the coronavirus is a physical reminder of this spiritual axiom.

Stepping in line with the Torah’s outlook, let’s think about proactively putting ourselves in the other’s shoes. Because, truth be told, they are my shoes as well.

Now, that’s something that ought to be contagious!

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