Dr. Fauci recently praised Israel as a model of what a unified country’s effort to combat COVID can achieve in their vaccine roll-out. It feels like we are entering a transition period where, although we must not be lulled into a false sense of security and relax our COVID protocols such as social distancing and mask wearing especially during upcoming religious gathering times like Purim and Passover celebrations, the ever-increasing availability of vaccines behooves us to look towards the horizon of how best to start to emerge from our individual COVID cocoons and re-enter the communal atmosphere.
Today is the 7th day of Adar and is the anniversary of Moshe’s birthday and Yahrtzeit. One of the values he taught was the key to a community’s strength, is its level of unity and synergy. It was only when the individuals who made up the Jewish people emerged from the crucible of Egypt as a unified nation were they worthy of the revelation at Sinai. The Siddur says, “Etz chaim hee lamachazeekim bah – The Torah is a tree of life for those who remain attached to it.” Rabbi Berel Wein explains that we are all like leaves on a tree and to the degree our individual leaf is connected to the tree, to that degree we will flourish individually. Once a leaf detaches from the tree, it loses the vitality and nourishment of the tree as it slowly floats to the ground.
This week I was privileged to make a virtual presentation to a group of young people considering careers in Jewish education at the Azrieli School of Education titled “Silver Linings in the Dark COVID Cloud” (to watch it, please click here). I think one of the silver linings COVID has taught us is the limitations of what we can do on our own and the appreciation for belonging to a community. After a long absence from Shul, a recent vaccine recipient told me, “they never thought they would miss Shul so much.” Tomorrow in Shul we read about remembering to combat Amalek, an enemy that tried to create division and splinter the Jewish people. They must have known that our unity is the secret to our strength and survival and therefore targeted that area of vulnerability.
At times like this, we can galvanize our community and transform it from a bunch of sandboxes into a beach. I am so hopeful and grateful that a group of local Rabbinic Synagogue leaders has joined together to present our Bnai Mitzvah age students at Addlestone with a combined gift from all the local Jewish congregations of a beautiful graphic novel Haggadah to use at this year’s Passover Seder. Ultimately I hope you’ll agree with me that the sum total of a Jewish community is greater than its individual parts.
Sometimes it feels like we are in the Divided States of America instead of the United States of America as the fabric of our nation frays in front of our eyes. The Jewish community can hopefully set an example for the rest of our country of how to remain unified while still respecting each others’ differences.
Rabbi Elisha Paul