Parshat Vayakhel – Pekudei: COVID 19 is a Coin with Two Sides

This has been a week of disorientation and suspension of norms.  It is not a week of chaos, but it is a week of disorganization. Sitting together presents possible danger for each other’s health while the comfort of a hug from a loved one invokes an immediate question of safety for one another.  Personal space is now extended to 2 meters distance and since it’s after Purim…we’re all wondering how we do Pesach this year.

So, here are some wonderful Jewish moments that have occurred.  

A news agency has reported that an Israeli opera singer stands in the street outside her father’s building where he is isolated and sings opera to him from the sidewalk.  Her music fills the air and though directed to her father, the neighbourhood is quiet as everyone listens. They are all transformed. I can only imagine what her father is feeling, his pride, his love, his tears.

A mother of 4 young children in Israel goes into her car so she can privately rant and yell at her children’s teachers for non-stop online messages about schoolwork and homework.  She is beautifully honest and hilarious in her exasperation as she accuses the teachers of setting her up to look like an idiot (her words) to her kids because she can’t help them with all their math and science questions.  How dare they?!? She finishes her rant (which she has videotaped to send to the teachers), thanks them because now she feels better and wishes them all a great day! The video is titled ‘If coronavirus doesn’t kill me, distance learning will’.

And here are some wonderful global moments that have occurred.

In Spain, people stood on their balconies and applauded the health care workers.

In Copenhagen, people leaned out their windows to join together and sing “You’ve Got a Friend”.

Two little girls in Queensland, Australia pooled their allowances and bought toilet paper which they then distributed from their wagon to their elderly neighbours.

All stories of the flip side of the Covid 19 coin.

This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayakhel – Pekudei, interestingly, is named ‘and he gathered’, referring to Moses gathering all the people together.  They have been brought together to build holy space, those with ‘a giving heart’, those who have particular skills to bring to the table and those with a will to participate – come one, come all.

In fact, the Torah describes the outpouring of generosity from everyone to the point where Moses asks people to stop donating since they have gathered what they need.  What they need, not more and not less.

Holy space is created when we find safe ways to gather together and build something new that benefits us all. Holy space is created through the generosity of others, our own generosity and the understanding of the measures involved in giving and taking.

But holy moments are created when we choose to turn the ‘coin’ over and build the nuances that transform the world: the song we share, the gift on the doorstep, the coffee on the porch with a loved one behind a window.

This is not a time to sit in our homes and build a private bunker. This is a time to stay safe in our homes and find new ways to gather and strengthen.  God commanded Moses to gather the people and we have always taken that very seriously.

The parshah continues and describes the robes of the High Priest.  It is layer upon layer upon layer of clothing and metal breastplates and epaulets.  Let’s not forget, these are desert people so layer upon layer upon layer cannot be easy to wear.  The High Priest also has little pomegranates and bells on the hem of his clothing. So, I can always hear my High Priest if he’s walking up behind me and then I can see the gems, the gold, the purple and blue and red garments.  What I won’t see is the man inside.

The Torah has clearly described a station, not a person.  No High Priest should bring his human interpretive side to the job.  I want my High Priests to always obey all the same rules so there is no difference between them.  I always want to see the office he holds, not the person inside.

And this week, I understood why.

During one of the news conferences, a representative of the Ministry of Health was updating on COVID 19 in Canada.  She clearly hadn’t slept much and seemed a bit more frazzled since the last time I watched her press conference. But this time her voice quivered, her eyes teared and she had to stop speaking for a moment.  I no longer saw the Ministry of Health, I saw her. I felt for her and I was rattled. 

The Torah, in its wisdom, reminds us that sometimes we should see only the Office and wait to extend our hearts to the person holding the position.  

All new moments of choice and discipline with only good intentions.

May there be speedy recovery to those who are ill and strength to those who are vulnerable. 

Invitation:

Food for Our Neshamah, Coffee for Me

Beginning Monday, March 23rd, I invite you to start your day with me online, as we share some of the positive stories from around the world. Let’s have coffee together in a new way and exchange these heartfelt and courageous stories from people who are responding to today’s challenges beautifully. 

Every weekday morning at 9 am (EST), join me in a new online community for positive sharing with our coffees. I invite you to come on in using this link: https://zoom.us/j/522368264 or viewing our Facebook page.  Don’t be afraid to have your coffee in a mug with a funny or special message; I’d love to hear the story behind it.

As we navigate the global spread of COVID 19, we can’t predict what the news will bring or what the next challenge might be, but we can start our day together, face to face online, in conversation and community. 

I look forward to welcoming you on Monday.

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