Sacrifices! A major theme of the Book of Leviticus that we meet this coming Shabbat. No doubt, this is now quite real to so many of us who are “sheltering in place”! Once again the text and tradition jump off the page and teach us again how our tradition can be a dose of reality to our time. From the Midrash comes a very famous story (no doubt many of my colleagues will preach on this) about a number of people who are sitting in a boat. One of the passengers decides to drill a hole and people start to complain. He responds by saying, in so many words, “why are you upset, I am drilling under my seat, not yours!”. Then the others reminded this person that we are all in the same boat and while the hole may be under your seat, the water that comes in endangers all of us and will cause the boat to sink” (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6)
Likewise we have he Talmudic expression that “all Israel is responsible one for the other”. There is a theme of inter-dependance in these (and other) passages. It is well that the tradition reminds us of these values in this very “interesting” time. We are learning new terms (“social distancing”) and adapting to new “normals”. We know that “this too shall pass” and we also know that when it does, as we seek to return to what was, that the “what was” will also be changed, For we shall be changed.
Maybe this idea of sacrifice that we meet in depth in Leviticus, can teach us that if we go back to doing what we always did, in the exact same way, we court the risk of forgetting the fundamental reality that we are all linked now into one humanity. We are all in this one big boat called Earth and I hope and pray that a lesson from this pandemic will be that we take this reality to heart and learn to elevate the values of fostering caring relationships. Maybe Pirke Avot had it right, we cannot afford anymore to be separate from he community, and if we, as Hillel I think said, are only for “ourself”, then what are we……and if not now….WHEN?
Rabbi Richard F Address