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Digging Deeper

Friday, 15 May, 2020 - 7:04 am

When my father was hospitalized in the ICU with coronavirus, I felt somewhat helpless. He was nearly 2000 miles away in Ohio. He was sedated. I couldn’t even get ahold of the doctor. The staff was simply overwhelmed.

How can I connect with him?


In this week’s double-header parsha, G-d claims ownership of the Jewish people. In Behar-Bechukotai G-d declares, “For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants, whom I took out of the land of Egypt.”

Every word in Torah conveys deep meaning. This begs the question: Why the redundancy of stating twice – in the same verse – that the Jewish people are servants to G-d?


In our relationships, we are driven by a desire to receive. We crave love, loyalty and concern. We are also driven by a deep need to give – to offer comfort, affection and assistance. This is what makes relationships meaningful.

If I am robbed the opportunity to give the gift of love, my relationship becomes empty and shallow. It may not survive the test of time.

How do I maintain a relationship when I am unable to care for someone else? How can I deepen my connection when I am far away?


A great rabbi was being mocked and ridiculed by Nazi officers. They scornfully pulled his beard cast off his yarmulke and shoved him. They asked whether he still believed the Jewish people were the chosen people. “Yes,” he replied calmly. A thundering crash of the rifle on his head sent the rabbi reeling to the ground, bleeding profusely.  

“Do you still believe?” the evil men bellowed.

“So long as I have not turned into the monsters that are beating me,” answered the rabbi, “Yes I still believe.”


The truth is that if the relationship is based on the give and take – the challenge of inability to tangibly feed the bond will harm the relationship, perhaps leading to its slow dissolution.

There is, however, one method of maintaining relationships – with or without Zoom – during periods of isolation and powerlessness.

When the Jewish people offered themselves up as servants of G-d, Hashem was impressed. The Jews said “Naaseh v’Nishmah” (We will do and we will hear), devoting themselves to G-d. G-d, in turn, accepted them as His people.

However, that relationship was predicated on the participation of the Jewish people in G-d’s masterplan. It hinged on their partnership with G-d. So long as the Jews were “do gooders” that were implementing G-d’s universal vision, they were perfectly content with the difficulties involved. It’s worth investing effort into a relationship – even great sacrifice – when you can see the positive results.

But, what about times when the Jewish would be unable to serve ostensibly as the great light unto the nations? Would they still be on board?

For this, Hashem added the extra words in our parsha. Hashem doesn’t want a relationship that is built exclusively on the benefits of taking. Nor does He desire a relationship built solely on giving.

So, G-d repeats, “They are My servants.” Even if they cannot give to me. And, even if it appears that I am not giving to them. We are one. Our relationship is not only built on a shared mission and values. It is an essential bond. It is the very nature of our existence.

It exists in Jerusalem and in Nazi-occupied Europe. It exists in the synagogue and in the privacy of our homes. It is exists in the touch of a loved one’s hand and in their mask-covered face.


True, I could not speak with my father. I could not offer medical assistance.

But, I was able to think about him, to pray for him. I was able to feel concerned for him.

I was able to know that we are one. We are still together. Bodies apart. Souls intertwined.

It was at that moment that I realized relationships are not only about give and take.


These days, it appears, we are being called upon, to deepen our relationships. Instead of fretting about the inability to connect, let’s appreciate the opportunity to connect at levels we previously never imagined.

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