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Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim - We Are All Affected Together       7 Iyyar 5780

05/08/20 17:17:47

May8

Here, in our quarantine quarters, we find ourselves saying, “Remember when we were able to do… [fill in as appropriate]”? Most people are driving less without going to school, work or recreation. With all that is going on, there are individuals who are going to work, and for them the roads are open, experiencing extraordinarily little traffic . As a result, they are driving a little faster on the roads, especially the freeways. Who among you remember speeding along the 805, the 15, the 405, or the 8 and out of the blue there was a slowdown of the traffic flow. We always hope that the cause is from a stalled car and not, Heaven forbid ,an accident. Sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised when the slowdown just breaks up for no apparent reason, at least that we can see.

In my assessment, accidents, stalled cars, and the like are considered acts of God beyond the natural control of life. But then there is a man-made slow down created by the speeders, and that is when the CHP (California Highway Patrol)speed up ahead of the traffic and swerve from side to side at a slower speed so that the flow of traffic slows down. It is very frustrating, especially when your location is far back and you have no way of knowing the reason for the slowdown. Other times we find ourselves in the first few rows of cars and are able to see why the slowdown is occurring, thanks to the CHP swerving to control the speed. As we are in the process of going somewhere, we feel a great sense of frustration and aggravation as to how this slow down directly affects the timing of our commute. Generally speaking, we are in a rush to get somewhere and now find ourselves delayed, arriving late for this appointment and subsequent meetings. This is only our immediate gut reaction which has nothing to do with any rational thinking. Subconsciously, we understand that this is for our own benefit. Even though none of us believes that speeding will get us into some trouble, or even worse, God forbid, into an accident, the slow down must be for the “other car” and not for me. Nevertheless, deep down we should understand that this slowdown is for the health and safety of ALL of us, whether we care to admit it or not.

Often in life we slow down, but sometimes it is self-instructed while at other times it is an act from above. Usually when we slow down it includes an inner circle of people in our lives, including family members, co-workers and community. Rarely does our slowing down impact the entire population as this virus has affected everyone, without exception, causing an exhaustive slowdown of society across the globe. Here, too, on the surface our first gut reaction is ,”I need to do x,y, and z and I can not do it now.” Initially we feel keen and deep frustration which hopefully for most of us subsides somewhat, settling down to a more rational reasoning of why this quarantine, isolation, and resulting slow-down was, indeed, necessary for our own safety and wellbeing.

We may be driving at the back of the slowdown and never know what caused it. Right now, however, we are in the front row of cars watching the CHP swerving and slowing us down, sending a message that is louder and clearer than screeching tires or worse, the grinding of metal to metal. Sit back, slow down, take in the scenery of family, our own personal relationship with HaKadosh Boruch Hu.

What did, or what will we do during this slowdown? What should we be focusing on - ourselves? others? or maybe both? As we well know, the Torah is not just a set of laws with rules and regulations ; it is a guide for life in all situations. This situation is no different. We look to the Torah for some direction during these challenging times. The Torah in this week’s Parshios of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim states in Vayikra 19:18 "לא תקם ולא תטר את בני , כמוך, אני ה' "עמך ואהבת לרעך “Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbor as [you love] yourself. I am God”. The Sadigerer Rabbe, Reb Avraham Yakov, explains the last two ideas of the verse as inextricable, one from the other. Most commentaries focus on the first part, which Rebbi Akiva said is a Klal Gadol BaTorah, a great rule of the Torah - to love your neighbor like yourself. Upon further scrutiny, the words ‘Ani Hashem’ are added on to many of the Mitzvos between man and man ,and here is no exception. In fact, not only is it not an exception but perhaps here it is the most necessary. Rabbi Akiva explains that the same way a person acts and treats his fellow Jew, I am Hashem. “I, too, “ says Hashem, “will treat and act with you.” Perhaps Hashem is not pleased with not only how Jews are treating their fellow Jews ,but Rei’Acha ,beyond a Jew, but to all humankind. Be it non-Jew to non-Jew, Jew to Jew or Jew to non-Jew and non-Jew to Jew, we ALL are in this slow-down together. God gave the world time to contemplate, deliberate, ponder and reflect upon our relationships with the entire world. Looking out of our homes and walking outside at a safe distance should ultimately bring us closer together. Let us not think of those things that separate or divide us, but rather at those things which bring us closer together, unifying the world to remember the ‘Ani Hashem’ of our existence.

One of the most important things to remember is to understand when the traffic finally breaks up and we start life in the fast lane again, that we do not forget the reason we had to slow down. Let us not forget to take all the treasured and meaningful videos, stories and anecdotes we have learned during this slowdown and always keep the safety and health of our physical and spiritual lives first and foremost in our minds.

Wed, May 27 2020 4 Sivan 5780