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Rabbi Shaya's Thoughts

Are you a Red, Yellow, or Green Jew?

 These days we sit and wait week after week thinking, when are we going to move from red to yellow and eventually from yellow to green? We know that these transitions are not dependent on us, but on factors that are out of our control. Yet, we hope that the situation will improve so that our lives can return to some normalcy.

 

This got me thinking—If I had to grade myself, what color would I give myself? Not in regards to corona, but in regards to Judaism. Am I a red, yellow, or green Jew? 

 

The Red Jew: You stop in your tracks. You are a Jew because you are a member of the tribe. You are the “chosen nation.” You might not be too sure what that really means but you know that if someone calls you a Jew, you know that they are referring to you.

 

The Yellow Jew: You stop and take pause. You think about it once in a while. You might light the Shabbat candles, make Kiddush Friday night, or lay the Tefillin. You have a charity box in your home and pay synagogue dues. You have a mezuzah on your front door. You proudly identify yourself as a Jew wherever you go!

 

The Green Jew: You are a Jew-on-the-go. You are always looking for a mitzvah to do. On an ongoing, daily basis you are thinking, planning, talking, and acting like a Jew. Perhaps you are even an activist on behalf of Israel or some other Jewish cause. One thing is for sure, when it comes to Judaism, you are always on the go!

 

As we prepare for the Shavuot holiday, let’s all be in the Green Zone, even if only spiritually.

What Is the Upside to the Coronavirus?

Let’s be honest: Before this all started, how often did we spend quality time with our spouses and our children? Yes, an hour here and there, a vacation for a week here and there. But two months (and counting)? Unheard of!

 

If you are alone the next question will still apply, but perhaps not as resolutely. I am sure we are all spending more time thinking about the big questions in life. Who is really the provider of life, of our livelihood, of our health? One day we might have a job, and the next day it can be gone. One day the stock market is up, and the next it can fall. We start to think after all, is there a “creator to this world?” Who is pulling the strings? Is it President Trump, Dr. Fauci, or Governor Wolf?

 

This week’s Torah portion talks about the Mitzvah of the Sabbatical year, a Mitzvah that is still practiced today in Israel. Every seventh year, farmers must let their fields lay fallow. One way to understand the reason for this commandment is that when we work the land, even if we try to remember at all times that all our blessings come from G-d, it is easy to forget – at times - where our livelihood truly comes from. Therefore, once every seven years we take a year off, which forces us to rely on the blessings from heaven. This reminds us that even during the years that we do work the land, it is not our hard toil that brings us our blessings; it’s G-d that provides for us.  

 

So, although we must do our part, we also keep in mind that the blessings come from G-d. This can be done in two ways: Thinking that we are the main providers and G-d is just our “support system,” or, we can look at it the other way around—that G-d is our provider and we are just the ones who create the conduit for G-d's blessings to take hold.  

 

We are now living a “sabbatical” of sorts. Working at home is still work, don’t get me wrong. But since we are spending more time at home, it does give us this opportunity to think about G-d, our provider.

This gift of time allows us to slow down, even though this is sometimes very difficult to do. 

 

However, now that we have been forced to put the brakes on life and even come to a screeching halt, let’s take the time to think about G-d's role in our lives, how He is the ultimate provider. Even if life is hard now, things will turn around—they always have. G-d does not remain a “debtor;” if we do our part, he will do His.  

Should We Be Enforcing Mask-wearing?

Recently we have seen in the news that the police in New York are issuing summons to people not wearing masks.   

 

The question is: Is this method effective? Or is it better to use a positive approach by handing out free masks to those in need?  

 

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, starts with, “G-d telling Moses to tell the Kohanim (priests), the children of Aaron, that they should not become ritually impure.” This double expression (telling and tell) teaches us that it is the responsibility of the elders to teach the younger generation these laws. Or to interpret it another way, it is the responsibility of the courts to teach these laws.

  

Let’s apply this teaching to our lives today. The elders and parents should teach the young. Or the courts, meaning the authorities and the police force, should teach the public how to remain pure and safe from any virus and disease. How is this done? By education. This is not done by punishment. This is done by positive reinforcement.   

 

When we teach a child what it means to grow up to be a holy “priest” and how special it is to be able to serve G-d, this child wants to be extra careful in his or her behavior so that they are always pure and holy.  

 

If we cannot inspire ourselves in our behavior, how can we expect to inspire others? When we practice responsible social distancing (according to CDC guidelines) then when the economy starts to reopen and we go back to work, others will do likewise, not because they fear that we will snitch on them, but because they are inspired to do the same.  

 

We are in this together. Let us be a holy nation. A nation of “priests.” Let us remain healthy and happy and let us pray that a remedy will be found for this awful coronavirus quickly! 

 

Shabbat Shalom. 

 

 

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