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after Shabbat: G-d’s Sovereignty

B”H

Motzei Shabbos shiur for Vayikra 5780

“Let me fall now into the hand of the L-RD, for very great are His mercies; and let me not fall into the hand of man.”

– 1 Chronicles 21:12, JPS 1917 Tanach

In parashas Ki Tisa, a census is taken wherein each person gave a half shekel as an atonement for his soul. The half shekel is described as a ransom for the soul, so that there will not be a plague when the census is taken (Exodus 30:12). The ransom guarantees that there will be no plague, as a result of the collective sins of Israel.

Commentary explains that because at the time of a census, wherein each man is counted, it is as if every man is also scrutinized in regard to his moral status. Inasmuch that deficiencies in thought, speech, and behavior may always be found upon such scrutiny, the ransom of a half shekel is necessary for atonement.

At the time of King David, a census was taken, by way of his directive; however, this displeased H’Shem, so a message was given to David to choose one of three consequences. Rather than be subject to famine, or his foes, David exclaimed that he would prefer to “fall into the hand of the L-RD” (see above).

Thus, G-d sent a plague throughout Israel. He then sent a destroying angel to enact a plague upon Jerusalem, until H’Shem decided out of His mercy to spare Jerusalem from destruction. David and the elders repented, saying, “let Thy hand, I pray Thee, O L-RD my G-d, be against me, and against my father’s house; but not against Thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

David’s trust in H’Shem, despite the fact that H’Shem sent the plague, exemplifies the trust of Job, the pious gentile who was inflicted by so much misfortune and physical malaise. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15). Today, in light of the Corona virus, our trust in H’Shem will be tested. Regardless of the spread of this modern day plague throughout the world, acknowledging G-d’s sovereignty over our lives is of the upmost importance.

daily meditation: Refuge

B”H

March 20, 2020

(24 Adar 5780)

“Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other begining’s end.”

– Closing Time, by Semisonic

As we close the doors behind us, and shut ourselves in for the duration of this plague, let us recall the night before our first redemption, when the Angel of Death passed over the homes of B’nei Yisrael.

We who placed our trust in H’Shem, by obeying His commandment to place the blood of the Pesach lamb on our doorposts and lintels, while sheltering behind those doors. The prophet makes reference to this event, while speaking of another day.

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”

– Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

The sages liken the final redemption to the first redemption. As Egypt was inflicted by ten plagues, so will the world be subject to an even greater set of plagues. Those of us who trust in H’Shem may seek refuge in Him, within the confinement of our homes at this particular time in history.

By turning our hearts towards Him, we prepare ourselves for the redemption that is at hand. Although this may only be a forerunner of the ensuing judgment upon the inhabitants of the earth, we shelter in expectation of our freedom, when Moshiach will reign.

Additionally, while our hunkering down during this time period, may also only be a prelude to a greater need to seek refuge in H’Shem down the prophetic timeline, we trust that He will safeguard us.

“He concealeth me in His pavilion [sukkah] in the day of evil; He hideth me in the covert of His tent; He lifteth me up upon a rock.”

– Psalm 27:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

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).

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