This week we begin reading the Book of Vayikra, or Leviticus, which discusses the sacrifice offerings in the Tabernacle. These sacrifices exemplified the commitment of the people to the service of the Almighty, and each day collective public sacrifices were offered in the name of the entire people. Everyone contributed equally toward these public sacrifices. Rich or poor, every person’s contribution was exactly the same.
There is a symbolism to this teaching: Sometimes a poor person feels that they have nothing of value to contribute, and they want to give up and let everything get done by those with greater means. The Torah teaches that this is wrong. Every person’s contribution is meaningful, everyone’s input is integral if we are to realize our mission as a people.
We have to use a similar paradigm to think about our own role at this moment in time when the COVID-19 pandemic has hit and we struggle to go on from day to day.
In just a short time the coronavirus has severely impacted our lives in myriad ways. Life is hard, and one casualty of this is that we find ourselves unable to express ourselves spiritually as we would like. We’re unable to attend the synagogue, unable to come together for public observances, unable to do so many of the things which usually define our spiritual endeavors.
Yet it is precisely here that the Torah teaches us that our struggle and our effort to do good right at this moment is going to make all the difference. What are we going to with the hardships and the hurdles we’re now facing? Will we give up, and succumb to depression? Or will we strive to become better people, to extend greater consideration to members of our household with whom we’re now in close quarters? Will we make phone calls to those who may need encouragement? Will we look for ways to help others, even in these hard circumstances?
Those are the challenges which will define us in the weeks to come. With the help of the Almighty, we will persevere and — difficult as it is to imagine — we will grow from this experience as well. PJC
Rabbi Levi Langer is the dean of the Kollel Jewish Learning Center. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.