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Rabbi's Week In Review- May 13

05/13/2020 01:58:12 PM

May13

In a time when questions of life and death have taken on a greater sense of immediacy, last week was one in which these issues were most prevalent. The week began with a funeral, not one that was unexpected (and which had nothing to do with COVID-19). In this difficult time, I wondered if and how the community could sufficiently honor the memory of this extraordinary woman who died, one who gave so much to family, friends and community. Embedded in that desire was and is the need to support the family, those who most directly were mourning the loss.

 

I was not the rabbi officiating at the funeral, but being close to all involved through relationships that have endured for my entire life, I leaned in on my rabbinic status to be present at the graveside burial. For me, being present was meaningful, and I was grateful for the response from family and friends there. Yet, having to undergo a conscious effort to maintain social distance, and specifically not to give a heartfelt hug to those friends and family, was a painful reminder that it will be some time before I can give those hugs and physically communicate my concern and support.

 

On the other hand, whatever emotional void presently exists for me, I know the greater good is to choose life. This was the discussion of the weekly check-in with the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City, a weekly occurrence since mid-March. As president of the Rabbinical Association, I was and am gratified for the cooperative response of our Kansas City-area rabbis. We understand the serious choices that we make are not just for ourselves, or even our own congregants. These policy decisions, by the examples we set, have broader implications and a broader reach.

 

As an Or L’Goyim — a light to the nations — we set an example for others. In this instance, we are giving an emphatic statement of our obligation to choose life, not just for ourselves but for all humanity. Every life has value and purpose. Every life is created B’Tzelem Elohim — in G-d’s Image — and deserves our protection. 

 

A contrasting position and message was at least implicit, if not explicit, in the order to reopen meatpacking plants. These plants have been hot spots for COVID-19, putting workers at constant risk to contract the virus themselves. Given the disproportionate number of black, Latinx, immigrants, rural and other working poor who work in these meatpacking plants, this order sends a message. The message is that these lives are expendable; these lives have lesser value. The egregious and heartless decision to order these workers back to work is a statement by those giving the order that they choose death for others.  

 

For Jews, we are led by the central Jewish value of Pikuach Nefesh — the sanctity of human life. Almost no other mitzvah or Halakhic precept takes precedence over the obligation to do all in our power to save a human life, any and all human life. Painful though it may be, my hugs will wait. I will welcome that time when those hugs will resume, and I look forward to having everyone I love still available to receive those hugs.

Sun, May 31 2020 8 Sivan 5780