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The Many Acts of Unity During Coronavirus

May 8, 2020 2:09 AM

Dear Readers,

On Shavuot, we read: “In the third month after the exodus from Egypt, they came to the wilderness of Sinai ... and Israel encamped there before the mountain.” (Exodus 19)

The Mechilta comments: “Everywhere else it is written, ‘They traveled ... they encamped’ [in the plural]. That is to say ‘they traveled’ with dissenting opinions and ‘they encamped’ with dissenting opinions. Here, however, [it is written] ‘and Israel encamped,’ [in the singular, for] all were equally of one heart.”

It’s normal for large groups of people to have dissenting views, but what was extraordinary was that when the Jews prepared to receive the Torah, an unusual feeling of peace, calm and unity embraced them. At Sinai, they camped “like one man, with one heart.”

The Torah stresses that this happened in the third month because this is the secret of the number three. One indicated exclusivity, two represents dissent, while three has the power of bringing the two opposing opinions together in a third option that validates both.

This is what true unity is. It doesn’t mean that you and I do the exact same thing, or that we think along the same lines. It means that while we are each individuals with unique ways of thinking and acting, we, nevertheless, respect and value the contribution of each other.

Over the last many weeks, since COVID-19 started, I’ve seen tremendous examples of unity. I’d like to share just a few. Please share more in the comments below.

  • Volunteers offering to shop for those in quarantine or for the elderly.
  • Entertainers and singers offering free entertainment to keep children (and adults) occupied.
  • Nurses and doctors in such frenzied, dangerous circumstances who took the extra time to uplift their patient’s spirits.
  • The thousands of people who recovered from COVID-19 and stood in line to donate blood plasma for those who are sick.
  • The huge numbers of prayer groups formed around the world, where participants said a chapter or more of Psalms, to pray for someone they didn’t even know at every hour of day and night.
  • Teachers working extra hard to ensure their students are learning and coping.
  • The beautiful Torah lessons on Zoom and Facebook continuously popping up; those teaching as well as those participating.
  • Businesses that offer free services or greatly reduced rates, just to help.
  • The many generous groups being set up by regular people to offer financial support to families after their devastating losses.
  • The helplines and therapists offering free emotional support.
  • Grocery stores that incorporate hours for the elderly or immune compromised so that they can shop more safely.
  • People who have been sewing and donating masks during the shortages.
  • Each and every person who stayed home during this time, to minimize the risk of others getting sick.

Our world is suffering terribly, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. But our world is also undergoing a tremendous show of unity, where we are standing “apart” but “together” as we move forward towards healing, equally of one heart.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.

A Tribute to the Many COVID-19 Warriors

May 8, 2020 1:51 AM

Dear Readers,

This week, we begin the book of Bamidbar, which is also known as the book of Numbers (Chamesh HaPekudim) because it begins and ends with a detailed census. All of Israel who were warriors, of draftable age, were counted.

“To count” in Hebrew is written literally as “to raise the head.” As we wage war against the coronavirus, it’s an appropriate time to “count” our many warriors and “raise up” or pay respects to those valiantly fighting this terrible enemy.

To the many mommies and daddies at home, you try so hard to have patience for your children as you entertain them, while you cook and clean (and possibly, still work remotely), despite your own stress.

To the children and teenagers, like my own daughter, your lives have been disrupted and you feel so alone, yet you refrain from meeting up with friends because you understand the harm it can cause others.

To those who lost their jobs or businesses and are worried about their economic future, yet fight despair.

To spouses who are not used to spending so much time in such close proximity during a taxing situation, yet are being careful to act kindly.

To the doctors, nurses, health-care professional (including members of Hatzolah) who are being called to act way beyond your call of duty and are endangering your own lives to save others, we can never adequately express our gratitude.

To those sick and infected with the COVID-19, who are fighting the greatest battle of their lives, please stay strong.

To those many people who aretakingon extra mitzvot, reciting Psalms, studying Torah or praying more you are spiritually fighting to help those who are ill.

To those who have lost loved ones, including a dear friend whose husband passed away right before Passover, and another who buried her father, who are valiantly struggling to remain brave for those around them, you are examples of faith and courage.

For our grandparents and great-grandparents, like my parents or like those in even less fortunate situations who are in complete solitude, please keep up your spirit and good health, we need you!

To the many volunteers, like those shopping for their isolated neighbors, or like those who have recovered from the virus and stood in line to donate their plasma, or like the woman who sews masks and hangs them in her front lawn, your generous spirit remains an inspiration.

To our teachers, you always deserved our praise, but now you have stepped up to learn a whole new way of teaching creatively online (some even while caring for their own children!).

To the many essential workers who are staffing supermarkets, managing gas stations, and picking up trash and recyclables, you are showing up so that we can buy our food, keep our vehicles running and dispose of the waste of that food.

And to the many others who are warriors on the coronavirus front, even if your contribution is “just” staying home to save others, I stand in admiration for your determination and love of your fellow.

Together, we will overcome this!

Chana Weisberg,

Editor, TJW

P.S. Please add in comments any COVID-19 warrior you’d like to pay tribute to.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
Often we need a break from our daily routine. A pause from life to help us appreciate life.

A little pat on the back to let us know when we're on track. A word of encouragement to help us through those bleak moments and difficult days.

Sometimes, we just yearn for some friendship and camaraderie, someone to share our heart with. And sometimes we need a little direction from someone who's been there.

So, take a short pause from the busyness of your day and join Chana Weisberg for a cup of coffee.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of six books. Her latest book, Shabbat Delights, is a two-volume series on the weekly Torah portion.
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