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daily meditation: Preparation

“The preparations of the heart are man’s.”

– Proverbs 16:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

Passover is around the corner; I imagine that this might be the most meaningful of all Passovers. For the intent of reading the Haggadah (Exodus narrative) at the seder meal, while partaking of symbolic foods is to relive the experience of our ancestors. This year, we are readily able to do so, because the passage of the ten plagues, in particular, will overlap with our current experience of reality.

Early on, within the framework of the everchanging coronavirus timeline, I realised that food stockpiling would not make sense, beyond a certain point with Pesach swiftly approaching. My staple foods are oats, rice and beans. Oats are classified as chometz, and for the Ashekenazi Jews, rice and beans are kitnios; they are not permitted to be eaten, nor even in one’s possession, during the eight days of Passover.

This dilemma creates an opportunity for a greater reliance on H’Shem, and trust in His provision. Not only will I trust that I’ll be able to purchase what I need for Passover; I also need to rely on His provision for me after Passover. I will not worry about what the health food store shelves will look like after Passover, when I will need to restock my supply of oats, rice and beans.

These are my usual day to day basic food items; yet, coincidentally, they may also be the most convenient foods for the necessity of preparing for a long term hunkering down scenario. Even so, I wouldn’t acquire more than I need, for 4-5 weeks at the most, purchased gradually, not all at once, because that would be inconsiderate of others. Ethics must play a role in prepping; otherwise, it is a slippery slope towards selfishness, lack of compassion, and disregard for our fellow human beings.

The preparation most necessary at a time like this is the “preparation of the heart.” If we turn our hearts toward H’Shem, He will meet us halfway (Talmud). He will free us from the shackles of confinement that may accrue upon our psyches, as each day passes. He will lead us out of our own personal Mitzraim (Egypt), so that we may walk through the waters of Yam Suf (Splitting of the Sea), when we experience a personal breakthrough in our lives. And, we will receive the words that He has spoken at Sinai, gladly in our hearts.

Motzei Shabbos: Afterthought

B”H

erev 19 Adar 5780

Motzei Shabbos: Afterthought on parashas Ki Tisa

“When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel, according to their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the L-RD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them.” – Exodus 30:12, JPS 1917 Tanach

The parashas begins with the commandment to take a census; literally, the Hebrew means “to lift up the head.” According to commentary, this connotes the understanding that B’nei Yisrael’s level of ruchniyos (spirituality) was elevated by the taking of the census. As mentioned in the verse, every man was to give “a ransom for his soul.” This ransom is defined in the next verse as “half a shekel.” These coins were contributed ultimately for the sake of the building of the mishkan (tabernacle).

Later in the parashas, after the sin of the golden calf, H’Shem sent a plague amongst the people, as a recompense for their sin of idolatry. Apparently, this may have been enacted, in order to effect retribution upon the particular Israelites who did not overtly worship the golden calf, yet, sinned in their hearts.

“Then hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and render unto every man according to all his ways, whose heart Thou knowest–for Thou, even Thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men.” – 1 Kings 8:39

Yehi ratzon (may it he His will) that we turn our hearts to H’Shem in sincere teshuvah (repentance), that we may return to Him in all of our ways (Proverbs 3:6). We will receive an elevation of our souls, when we reach out to G-d, through our mitzvot (good deeds), including tsedokah (charity), done in sincerity. Now is the time. “As for me, in the abundance of Thy lovingkindness will I come into Thy house; I will bow down toward Thy holy temple in the fear of Thee” (Psalm 5:7).

Ki Tisa – A Remedy Prepared

B”H

Shiur for parashas Ki Tisa 5780
17 Adar 5780 (March 13, 2020)

H’Shem plagued the people, because they made the calf. ” – Exodus 32:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights; during this time, H’Shem spoke with Moses – according to some commentators, Moses received the instruction for the Mishkan at this time. It is mentioned in the Talmud, that H’Shem creates the cure before the ailment. Here, the blueprints for the Mishkan served as the remedy to what had not yet occurred – the idolatry of the golden calf. H’Shem prepared the cure before the sickness.

What is the malaise of idolatry? To place anything in our lives above our commitment to H’Shem. This raises up the created above the Creator, G-d forbid. Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven (Talmud). Therefore, our conscious effort to make G-d most important in our lives is up to us; in effect, we are called upon to crown Him as King – sovereign over every aspect of our lives.

In these challenging days, we also look for the remedy to the various ailments of our lives; yet, even when there seems to be no hope on the horizon, we must maintain a sense of bechirah (trust) in H’Shem, that He has already designated, the time, place, and remedy for each of us to continue on the derech (path) towards righteous.

Yet, the path is narrow, there are many distractions along the way. It was only when Moshe sought out the forgiveness of H’Shem, on behalf of B’nei Yisrael, that he was able to receive the second set of tablets. We are also given second chances in our lives; however, if we do not even realise the need to change our ways, we may be given a wake up call.

The Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the wilderness) permitted B’nei Yisrael to focus on worshipping H’Shem; we need to do the same, in a manner of speaking, and be ever mindful of H’Shem’s Presence. “I have set the L-RD always before me; surely He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalms 16:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Coronavirus Musings

B”H

March 11, 2020

Coronavirus Musings

I am beginning to feel a little bit claustrophobic. This is a surprising statement for myself to make, inasmuch that I am an introvert, recluse, and contemplative, not necessarily in that order. Yet, upon reading the news updates on the Coronavirus every day, I unexpectedly had a visceral sensation of claustrophobia, while sitting at my desk in my apartment.

Thank G-d that I am not on quarantine; however, I empathise with those who are. In particular, I am thinking of the New Rochelle community. Also, my heart goes out to New Yorkers, specifically those living in NYC, including members of my family.

If not now when? We can ask this in regard to the potential appearance of this plague in areas where there has been no outbreak. We may also ask this of ourselves, regarding our response to Coronavirus. As Fauci said, “It will get worse.” We need to be practical, realistic, and active.

Apparently, many if not all U.S. states are stepping up the response; this is a necessary stance to an invisible, yet formidable foe. There is no need to fear or panic; yet, it is important to recognize the scope of this threat, and act accordingly. I welcome these measures that are being taken across the country, in every state. It is as if up until now, after the WHO has declared a pandemic, I had not seen the type of aggressive rhetoric, concerning containment recommendations, including social distancing.

On another note, I am beginning to worry about things like, Will I continue to have a steady supply of bananas, purchased from the local health food store, or will banana shipments somehow be curtailed? A relatively small concern, compared to what most people might worry about, as well as compared to what I should be concerned about; for example, basics, like nonperishable food items and water.

Yet, my diet mostly consists of bulk food items; so, I am already prepared. Even so, man can not subsist only on oats, rice, and beans. I prefer to add apples, bananas, and roumaine lettuce to my list of basic food items. Nor, do I think that I could do without green tea or spring water.

It is no longer a question of What is the situation going to look like, two to three weeks from now; rather, it is a question of what changes in the response levels will occur in 2-3 days from now? Indeed, every day brings an increase in case positives, and immediate responses.

I would encourage everyone to be smart about preventative measures on an individual basis. I had already stopped shaking hands with others, about a week ago, despite not having seen others restrict themselves. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therefore, think globally, prepare locally.

“I will say of the L-RD, who is my refuge and my fortress, my G-d, in whom I trust, that He will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.”

– Psalm 91:2-3, JPS 1917 Tanach