Shalom Rav here
We are almost finished with the counting of the Omer, the period between the two festivals of Pesach and Shavuot. We have been redeemed from slavery and are well on our way to the quintessential experience of standing at Sinai; entering into the Covenant which distills our values, our commitment to G!D, and our responsibilities for one another.
At the beginning of counting the Omer, we always know how many days we will count and when we will arrive at Sinai. But this year, as everything takes on a new light, we can perhaps come closer to tasting the anxiety of our ancestors who left Egypt, not knowing how long it would take them to reach Sinai, or what would happen to them afterwards.
We, too, are wandering in the unknown, unsure of what awaits us. We have no idea how long this time of uncertainty will last; longer already than most of us could ever have imagined. What will life be like “after Covid-19”? Will there even be an “after Covid-19” until a safe vaccine can be found and widely distributed? How can we better adjust and help our families thrive even under the threat of this devastating disease?
Like the Israelites, fearful in their unknown journey to an unknown Promised Land, there are those who long to return to the way things were before. But instead of a willingness to return to slavery, this time it would endanger the very lives of others, especially those most vulnerable among us.
All across the globe, Jewish communities are creating their own “rules” for ending this seemingly interminable isolation. From Sweden to Israel to New York, we can be proud to see Jews who are determined to set the standard for the most careful and caring decisions about when and how to reopen and return to some sense of normalcy. While we all depend on having a healthy economy, we understand that this cannot be accomplished at the cost of human life.
Pikuach nefesh, the saving of a soul, is the very highest mitzvah. When lives are at stake, nothing is more important, and certainly not money. We are wandering in the wilderness surrounded by fear and isolation. We see dangers all around and more challenges every day. As we continue into the unknown, let us be certain of one thing: caring for each other, supporting one another, and walking safely forward together, is surely the way to a better world. As we prepare for Shavuot and the Revelation of Sinai, let us recommit to our highest ideals, for we know, we are indeed, stronger together.
Gaylia R. Rooks, Rabbi Emerita