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03/19/2020 04:31:23 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In light of what the world and the People Israel are facing with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, I believe it is providential that this week's double parashah, Parashat Vayyak'heil-Peku'dei, begins with the Hebrew verb "vayyak'heil."  This word is translated into English as "And he caused to assemble."  The parashah begins with Moshe assembling the B'Nei Yisrael (Children of Israel) in order to begin the process of making and constructing the Mishkan (Wilderness Tabernacle), HaShem's "dwelling place" among them.  The COVID-19 virus has most certainly caused the world community to assemble in an effort to eradicate this latest threat to humankind.  The question you may ask is what can you as an individual do.  Well, certainly you must follow the protocols issued by the Center for Disease Control and all other valid authorities in an effort to stem the rising tide of COVID-19.  What else can you do?  Because the People Israel has faced many a life threatening crisis, let us look to our Tradition for those "tried-and-true" methods that have caused us more than once to unite as one people to face each crisis that comes up.

In the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) in Masekhet Shevuot 39a we read: "All Jews are responsible for one another."  This has always been the strength of our people.  In Vayikra Rabbah 4 we read: 'Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught: 'It can be compared to people who are in a boat, and one of them took a drill and began to drill under his seat.  His fellow passengers said to him: "Why are you doing this?"  He said to them: "What do you care?  Am I not drilling under me?"  They replied: "Because you are sinking the boat with us in it!"'"  We are now all in the same boat.  If we do not help each other, if we do not look after each other we are in danger of sinking the entire boat.  And it is to that end that we must also remember the story of Miryam as found in Sefer Bemidbar (the Book of Numbers) in which we are told that she was shut out of the camp for seven days due to having been afflicted with tzara'at (a virulent skin disease).  Because of this, the B'Nei Yisrael did not proceed on their journey until Miryam was readmitted into the camp.  When one of us is quarantined, the rest of us must wait for them to recover before we carry on with our individual lives.

From Rosh Chodesh Elul until Hashanah Rabbah, Ashkenazic Jews recite Tehillim (Psalm) 27 twice each day.  At this critical time, we should pay attention to the final verse of this Psalm: "Hope to HaShem; be strong and He will give you courage; hope to HaShem!"  This is what we do time and time again as the People Israel!  This is what we must do now!  Is it any wonder, then, as to why the national anthem of Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) is "HaTikvah"(the Hope)?

Fri, July 3 2020 11 Tammuz 5780