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"Are You 'One for All'?"

03/25/2020 02:59:29 PM


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

With this Shabbat, we begin reading Sefer Va-Yikra (the Book of Leviticus).  It is interesting to note that, traditionally, this was the book that was first taught to little boys as they began cheder.  You may ask: "Rabbi, why would those little boys begin their studies with learning how to sacrifice animals?"  To answer your question, I want to focus my remarks on the second verse of this week's parashah, Parashat Va-Yikra, which reads as follows: "When a man [singular] from among you brings an offering to HaShem - from animals, from the cattle, or from the flock, shall you [plural] bring your offering." (Va-Yikra 1:2)  The question that might be asked is why the change in focus from the singular to the plural.  I believe the answer to this question speaks to the heart of the problem created by those young people who refuse to take the necessary precautions and observe the required restrictions needed to attempt to stem the increase in the numbers of those contracting COVID-19, more commonly known as the "Coronavirus."

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch learns from this verse that when a person commits a sin, s/he is not only affecting him/herself.  When a person commits a sin, his/her entire world (family friends, the People Israel) is affected.  When one fo B'Nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) brought a sacrificial offering in order to try to make amends for the sin s/he committed, s/he was not only elevating him/herself above the sin, but his/her world was being healed in the process.  This, says Rabbi Sternbuch, is why the beginning of the verse refers to the individual sinner who wants do t'shuvah (repentance) and the end of the verse indicates his/her action will bring about an abundance of blessings upon all of B'Nei Yisrael.

Rabbi Zev Leff tells the story about a father who was sitting comfortably in his easy chair trying to read a magazine.  His 5-year-old daughter came to him and began tugging on his jacket.  Why?  Obviously because she was bored.  So, what did the father do?  He ripped out one of the pages from the magazine he was reading (the page happened to be a map of the world) and tore it into 25 little pieces.  He then gave the pieces to his daughter and told her to come back to him when she completed reassembling the jigsaw.  He assumed that it would take her at least an hour to match together the contours of each ripped piece of paper.  After all, she had never even seen a map of the world.  Imagine how surprised he was when his daughter returned after a few minutes with the entire map of the world reassembled perfectly!  He was astounded!  "How did you do this so quickly?" he asked.  His daughter answered: "Daddy, it was easy!  I turned the pieces of paper over and saw that it was a picture of a person.  Once I put the person back together, the whole world fell into place."

This week, the news media has reported about the mass gatherings of college-age students who have decided not to observe the proper protocol measures needed to fight the spread of COVID-19 and gathered in the usual "Spring Break" areas throughout the country.  In every interview I watched, when asked why they were acting in this manner, each person basically said "I am going to do what I want to do.  I am not worried about anyone else."  Our Tradition teaches us otherwise.  Our Tradition teaches us to care for and about each other.  The little girl of Rabbi Leff's story had learned this lesson.  The verse I cited from this week's parashah teaches this lesson.  The question is: Are we willing to learn from it?

Fri, July 3 2020 11 Tammuz 5780