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Keep Fruit Discard Peels

Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 1:53 pm

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

The world, our generation, has been given a global situation that is unprecedented.

A situation that is beyond our control. 

Beyond any human beings’ control.

A problem of universal proportion. There isn’t a single country that one could have run to, to hide from the proliferating disease.

Who IS controlling it?

G-d of course.

Everyone knows that.

The death, pain and suffering are also well known. We do not seem to be able to escape it. Wherever we turn there are people in need of healing and those who need to be comforted for the loss of a loved one. 

More than two decades ago, as a young man, Benny Wolf then a Yeshiva student, came to Bangkok to volunteer at the fledgling Chabad House for Israeli backpackers. Tragically he passed away last Friday night from complications of pneumonia at age 43. In his short life he managed to achieve great things as a Chabad shliach to Hanover, Germany where he was laid to rest. May his memory be a blessing. Benny was buried in Hanover and his wife and eight children will continue their mission in Hanover. Click here for more. 

There are many other changes that have taken place in our perception of life.

For starters, this situation is humbling beyond our imaginations. 

Having the entire worlds humming norms brought to their knees, has brought about a universal recognition regarding the limitations of humankind.

It has caused us to look for existential solutions. To turn to the Supreme Being, G-d the source of all life and pray for His help.

It has caused us to reassess the sanctity of life.

The sanctity of every life.

Societies have locked down to preserve life.

Trillions of dollars have been lost so that lives are not lost.

What a powerful statement the world has made. Human life is sacred. Why? Because the Creator has transmitted this message of Divine morality to humanity during the communication at the mountain of Sinai. Because every human being has been created in the image of G-d. Nobody has questioned this absolute value. How inspiring to witness this universal commitment to the preservation of life. 

We have witnessed a sharpening of our core ideals and values vis a vis interpersonal relationships as well.

This week’s Torah portion teaches us that the central rule of the Torah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself’. Or as Hillel paraphrased it, ‘don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you’.

Humanity has risen gallantly to the challenge of reaching out to help each other.

First responders, medics, nurses, doctors, food suppliers, teachers, government leaders, religious leaders are all performing valiantly.

Simple citizens are helping wherever and however they can. Creativity abounds. I read an article about some Jewish teens making masks out of kippahs as many people have stacks of kippahs from bar mitzvah and wedding celebrations that could easily be turned into face masks. There are ordinary people who are providing food for others. Some are volunteering to buy supplies for the elderly. Visits to those who are homebound are taking place through porches and windows. 

The list goes on and on.

And let us not forget the great gift that the world has received called ‘ZOOM’.

Social distancing is difficult. 

It is difficult for people to be at home all alone.

There are many elderly people who have many kids, even more grandchildren and feel totally isolated from their loved ones.

Imagine what a young couple feels like when their marriage turns to a less than twenty-person event. 

Especially during funerals when emotions run high, it is difficult to stay away.

We buried someone yesterday. A sweet Jew by the name of Daniel Dvir. I asked our community to please understand that in the current situation we wanted to do a burial with a minyan of ten Jewish men, but we didn’t want to have more than that.

Daniel was a popular fellow. He was sweet. Spoke a little but did a lot. Personable. Helpful to others without letting his beneficiaries know that he was their benefactor. I only discovered after his passing how tragic and challenging his childhood and teen years were after losing his mother Devorah at a young age.

There were scores of people who wanted to attend the funeral. More than eighty people joined the ZOOM broadcast of the funeral. Yet, our community obviously respected the need for limiting the number of attendees and agreed to stay at home and participate remotely.

ZOOM to the rescue.

Good on ZOOM. For making our lives more manageable. For bringing people together.

I find myself more busy teaching Torah than ever before. Via ZOOM. 

An hour before Shabbat I do a ZOOM pre-Shabbat gathering. 

Yesterday I spoke to a large girls high school in Israel. Via ZOOM of course. 

I have been able to attend gatherings and meetings that I usually could not have attended. Via ZOOM.

ZOOM is a great tool.

From their IPO price of $36 one year ago, they reached a high of $159.56 in March of this year. From ten million users, they reached two hundred million users.

(Do not at all take this as a business tip regarding stock market investments).

Lately the price has fallen. Why? One of the reasons seems to be that society will hopefully emerge from lockdown soon. People may go back to in person meetings. Our dependency on ZOOM may diminish.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do hope that some of the changes that this crisis has brought with it, stay with us.

ZOOM for example. I hope some of its benefits remain with us even as we go back to some form of normal.

I certainly hope that the spiritual and societal changes remain.

Our heightened sensitivity to the existence of G-d, the smallness of man and the upgraded levels of social responsibility we feel toward others, remain with us to allow for a better world.

As believing Jews we know that our end goal is to emerge from this painful world of confusion to a world of clarity with Mashiach.

Until then, we need to remember to throw out the ‘peels’, the suffering and the pain as we keep the ‘sweet fruit’, the benefits and gifts that humanity has been granted.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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