Who would have believed that we would witness what is going on in the world today? A pandemic sweeping across the world profoundly altering the way in which society lives. No one amongst us knows how this event will change our lives in the future.
A new dimension to the word disruption!
There are multi levels where our lives have changed. Hundreds of millions of people are currently working from home. Children around the world are not going to school. Traveling has all but ceased. Even synagogues around the world have been shut down.
We are clearly living in times which are unprecedented.
How should we as Jews behave during such times? What is the guidance from our Torah in dealing with profound uncertainty.
There is a popular saying in Israel “In the end it will be good”. And if it is not good, it is not yet the end.
First and foremost we have all been empowered with faith and trust in G-d. This attribute has been the secret of Jewish survival throughout the ages. Each and every Jew has the capacity to transcend the panic by discovering the power of our trust in G-d who is always in full control of even the most minute detail in his creation.
This week’s Torah portion is called ‘Vayakhel’ comprised of the word ‘Kahal’ which means community. Isn’t it ironic that on the Shabbat when we read about the importance of building a community, thousands of synagogues and community centers throughout the world have been closed?
There is however a second Torah portion which is combined with the first, which we also read this week. It is called ‘Pekudei’ which means an ‘Accounting’.
At a Chassidic gathering which took place on a Shabbat where these same two Torah portions were read in the year 1992 (in what was the last time the Rebbe addressed his followers), the Rebbe provided the following insight.
He explained that the only way one can build a community of individuals is when each and every one of us is completely aligned with a cause greater than ourselves. Even if only one ‘individual’ is out of sync with the ‘community’ then we all suffer as a result.
This is the message we derive from the fact that the two portions of ‘Vayakhel’ (community) and ‘Pekudei’ (accounting) are read together. On the one hand the ideal state towards which we must all aspire is the building of a ‘community’ where all ‘individuals’ are subsumed into a collective state based on shared values. However this can only be achieved when each and every component of that community is fully contributing their individual strengths.
During these unprecedented times we should all do our best to make the most of the unique situations in which we find ourselves. Deep down we all believe in ‘Divine Providence’.
In times of disruption there are also unique opportunities presented to us. Our conventional lives have changed for now. We no longer have the daily distractions which have perhaps obscured a clear set of values. Travel, leisure, traveling to work are severely restricted, perhaps enabling greater head space for discovering a true sense of purpose.
These are clearly times for profound introspection. Not easy for anyone. However, as Jews we believe ‘It is all for the good’. No doubt we will witness those times sooner than we think.
Stay safe. Stay healthy