A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 7.9.2020

Summer officially began on June 20th, but I always associate the July 4th weekend with the beginning of summer. The last couple of weeks of June are occupied with wrapping up the business of the academic/school year – there are graduations, getting kids off to sleep-away camp, and looking forward to some vacation time. This year, of course, everything is off-kilter; we remain mired in our national and global angst, the world seems utterly upside-down, our hapless government flails in nearly every way, and to top it all off, the fireworks started way too early. Of course, chief among our unease and discomfort is the continuing pandemic. If wearing a facemask was a nuisance in April and May, that’s nothing to the sweaty, suffocating discomfort of wearing one in July and August. It’s timely that the Book of Numbers seems, like us, preoccupied with plagues. The spies who brought a bad report of the land die of plague (14:37); when the people complain to Moses after the rebellion of Korach, God brings a plague that kills 14,700 Israelites (17:13); at the end of last week’s parasha, there is reference to another plague being “lifted” after Pinchas dispatches the Israelite man and the Midianite woman (by running them both through with a spear!) (25:8); and in this week’s parasha, chapter 26 begins with the words “When the plague was over…” (the end of that plague is followed by a census, which perhaps should give us some hope in our current circumstance!).

Just as with the Israelites, our own version of plague is seriously exacerbated by human error – forced errors. So as we are robbed of our “normal” summer, as the discomfort around mask-wearing increases, as we grow weary of social isolation and the multiple (and at times unbearable) restrictions, I urge us all to redouble our efforts to stay vigilant and safe. Continue to keep your distance. Continue to wear a mask and avoid gatherings. Continue to have others shop for you (especially if you are in the high-risk category). As we await a vaccine or a cure, we, ourselves, can contribute to the significant “flattening of the curve” by taking these precautions. As tempting as it may be to put Covid-19 in the rear-view mirror, it is not yet time to do that. We must keep our eyes on the long game.

Join us this coming Shabbat to hear about how Moshe sagely plans for the future, influenced perhaps by five sisters, the compelling daughters of Zelophehad, who also look to their future. Starting this week, we will move to a model of Torah study in lieu of formal sermons for the remainder of the summer – there is much to discuss!

I hope to see you then, if not sooner.

Shabbat shalom u’Mevorach – a peaceful and blessed Shabbat,

Rabbi Sam Levine