March 12, 2020 | Supportive Words from Rabbi Linzer
We are all grappling now with the coronavirus. Even for the vast majority of us who are not sick or infected, our life has been significantly altered, and between quarantines, shul closings, school closings, and social distancing, many people are feeling alone and isolated. It is a time when our natural instinct is to protect ourselves and our family – and that is, indeed, our primary moral and halakhic responsibility. At the same time, it is imperative on us to remember that we are a community. Whether davening in a shul with a minyan, or davening by oneself at home, we say every brakha in the plural – we are always connected to the larger community and thinking of their needs as well as ours.
This is the time to pick up the phone – or better yet, to get on Zoom – and reach out to people who are in isolation or staying at home out of caution, to offer to go shopping or run errands for someone, to lend an extra laptop, computer, or tablet to people who don’t have enough for the whole family. This is the time to keep the wellbeing of individuals, of the community and of the world in your thoughts and prayers and let those translate into action. Perhaps my colleague, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, says it best: “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how me might be of help to that other, should the need arise.”
In the book of Shemot, B’nei Yisrael time and again come together and demonstrate achdut as a people. Whether standing at Mt. Sinai – “like one person with one heart” – or building the Mishkan, or even when they are sinning and making of the Golden Calf, they join together as one. Purim tells a different story. The people are spread out – “scattered throughout the nations” – with different languages and different customs. This is reflected in the practices of Purim – it is the only holiday which is celebrated on multiple days – the 14th and the 15th – and the Rabbis added to this the 11th, 12th, and 13th. And the megillah itself can be written and read in different languages. And yet, despite this, Purim is a day of great unity. It was, for the Rabbis, the acceptance of the Torah all over again, coming from the free will people, with all the people acting as one. And it is a day where we foster unity and we extend ourselves to others – sending food to our friends, giving gifts to the poor. Purim teaches us that even when separated and isolated, we can still come together as one. It is on us to reflect on how we can best stay connected and be of assistance even during these trying times.
My best wishes and tefillot for all of our wellbeing,
Rabbi Dov Linzer
President, Norman and Tova Bulow Rosh HaYeshiva