Mintz: Better when this is over
During the second century, 24,000 students of the great Talmudic scholar Rabbi Akiva died as a result of a dreadful epidemic. For the small Jewish community living in the Holy Land, this was a life-altering tragedy that pained every home, broke every family, and brought sadness and shame on the entirety of Jewry.
Jewry’s greatest minds and spiritual masters were taken from us in the prime of their life. Why did God bring about that plague? Our sages teach that though they respected their teacher Rabbi Akiva; they didn’t respect each other. Furthermore, precisely because they were devoted to their beloved teacher and believed they understood him correctly, to the exclusion of all others, they disrespected their colleagues who, they believed, were wrong.
On the Jewish calendar, this month of Iyar is one of introspection, a time for character trait refinement and part of the period in which we count 49 days of Omer, counting down the days from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover all the way to Pentecost, when Moses descended Sinai with the two tablets, the Torah, on the Jewish festival of Shavuot. So, the historic tragedy of the holy, misguided, students coincides with a time of year set aside for change — and there’s no better change for humanity than people humbling themselves and treating others with more dignity, respect and collegiality.
It is my hope, that when COVID-19 subsides, God willing really soon, when we finish mourning those who perished, celebrating the lives that were miraculously spared, relearning the art of social interaction, we will also have become a kinder, gentler, society, internalizing that which we experienced. COVID-19 divided us, kept us away from each other. Let our reunion post-COVID-19 be one in which we internalize respect.
The past two months have hurt us all — it didn’t care about our political affiliations, skin color, gender, religion, nationality or even country of residence, it attacked all mercilessly. Let’s rechannel that non-discriminatory experience to treat all — yes, even those with whom we disagree passionately — with equal dignity. We can have differences, we can debate issues, but we must never mistreat another human being — never.
As we wait for more restrictions to be lifted here in Eagle County, in the meantime, until we can join together in person at the Vail Chabad Jewish Center, please join our community for the many Zoom experiences that keep us stimulated with in-depth classes, discussions and insight covering a wide array of Jewish moments from Hebrew School to Pre-Shabbat L’Chaim’s, Bar/Bat Mitzvah classes to Torah study.
Hang in there! We shall overcome, together!
Rabbi Dovid Mintz directs Vail Chabad Jewish Center. He and his family live in Vail since 2006. He can be reached at info@JewishVail.com.