During this covid 19 crisis, we see the whole and the broken tablets of humanity. Both are part of the human reality. But the Torah reminds us to think ahead, to look to better times. It calls on us to pick up the broken pieces and regain our sense of balance and commitment to the future.
Angel for Shabbat
Each individual is expected to draw on his/her best strengths and talents in order to fulfill his/her distinctive mission in life. If one internalizes the feeling of having been chosen to accomplish great things, one can live with vision, energy and sense of purpose.
The Torah reminds us not to judge success or strength by external numerical standards. The Israelites were not strong even though they multiplied in prodigious numbers. A hollow oak tree is not strong even if it is ancient and massive. No nation, community, institution or individual can be deemed to be strong unless the inner life is healthy.
The leadership of Israel did not emerge among people who lived sheltered and insulated lives. Rather, it devolved specifically on Joseph and Moses who faced deep challenges and who had to experience conflicts with their fixed ways of seeing the world. The challenges stimulated them to think creatively and courageously.
Imagine how modern media might report charges of war crimes in the biblical story of Egypt and the Israelites. Here is how Pharaoh’s position might be presented.
When we seek freedom and the fulfillment of our spiritual natures, we need to draw on our inner youthfulness and on our anticipated elderly mature vision. Seeing our own lives through the prism of our past and our future helps us to live righteously and happily in our present.
Often enough, people are confronted with wickedness and injustice; but instead of standing tall in opposition to the perpetrators of evil, people bow their heads. They lose self-confidence. They think: I am too small and too weak to resist. It’s best to go along or to stay quiet. Resistance can be unpleasant, even dangerous. Thus, evil continues to spread.
A prevalent custom in Ashkenazic synagogues is for the congregation to stand when the Ten Commandments are read from the Torah. Among Sephardim, the widespread custom is to remain seated during the reading of the Torah, including during the recitation of the Ten Commandments. One should follow the custom of the synagogue which he/she attends.
The idea of payment in proper measure applies not merely to monetary matters, but to life in general. The Mishna (Sotah 1:7) teaches that “bemidah she-adam moded kakh modedim lo,” i.e. a person will be subject to the same standard of judgment that he/she uses in judging others.
What makes holiness is not merely the physical structure or priestly garments or technical ceremony: holiness is evoked by the spirit of reverence which people bring to the sanctuary. If the ingredient of holiness is missing from the participants in the service, then the physical beauty and splendor become empty shells.