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What can we take from all this?

Friday, 15 May, 2020 - 2:38 pm


“Empathy,” my friend said to me this week. “We need to have empathy for people and realize that everyone is handling this crisis differently. Folks are scared.”

He is deeply involved in the COVID-19 response locally and will be the first to tell you that no matter what measures are implemented, reactions will vary greatly due to personal circumstances. The data is evolving, the analysis is fluid and leadership on all levels is facing challenges our modern society has never imagined. No wonder people are frightened.

As we work together to adapt to our new reality it would be prudent to seek the positive things we can take from these unprecedented times. I believe the fact that we now feel so small and intimidated by a mysterious force beyond our control is an opportunity to reframe our approach to life.

The name of this week’s parsha gives reference to the fact that the Torah and Mitzvot were revealed to us at Mount Sinai. When the talmudists wish to express the idea that our tradition traces back to the original divine communication between G-d and Moshe they often use terms such as “received from Sinai.” Why is the original location of the revelation so important?

Mount Sinai was not the tallest nor the prettiest mountain. It was rather small and plain. Tradition teaches that this mountain was chosen to teach us the importance of humility. If so, why did G-d not give us the Torah in a valley? Because the Jewish way of life demands pride and a sense of spiritual elevation.

How can these two seemingly opposite traits complement each other?

Here is how the Rebbe defines the teachings of Chabad philosophy which seeks to uncover the essence of Judaism:

Chassidus is Divine intelligence, an understanding which shows man how small he is, and how great he can become. (Hayom Yom 19 Iyar)

Judaism is forever anchored to Mount Sinai because Torah provides us the framework in which we can appreciate how small (Sinai) we truly are within context of the awesome divine reality, but that specifically within this context we are capable of achieving true greatness (Mount).

COVID-19 has jolted all of us to the jarring realization that we are very small. Instead of becoming confused and despondent in the face of this perceived human failure, let’s embrace our tininess in a wholesome and healthy matter. Realize that we are tiny yet integral cogs in a massive divine plan and discover how we can achieve the greatest heights by fulfilling our G-d given mission.

While we can’t control the virus at large we can control how we make our world a better and more divine space. Make Torah study a priority in life, take on a new and daring Mitzvah or boldly increase your charitable giving. Be humbled yet empowered - just like Mount Sinai.


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