Hazzan David Lipp - President, Cantors Assembly

 

There are fewer ironies more stark than the recent confluence of parshiyot with the required physical isolation of our worlds as we have experienced them in the past few weeks.

Just when we were commanded by our governments to help flatten the curve of death and disease by isolating ourselves physically from one another we were reminded by our ancient revelatory text to congregate. Vayak’hel is an unusual verb which began our final double portion of Exodus telling us in no uncertain terms to come together.

Then this week’s portion of Vayikra begins the book of Leviticus as a guide book for purity and animal sacrifice, our ancient holiness code and priestly how to. Whenever I think this central book of the Torah is less than relevant I remember Maimonides who wrote that even if the Holy Land were to be reclaimed in his time that he would not sanction the resuscitation of the sacrificial service as the mode of communication with God had changed since Biblical times.

Regular Torah readers know that most sofrim make sure that the first letter of almost every column in the Torah begins with a vav, the letter/word of connection, AND.

All of us have had to adjust and upgrade our methods of connection utilizing social media to enhance our communication with God and one another without the benefit of a physical minyan in the past few weeks. It has been a challenge for both those who have been doing it capably and those who have been operating with a serious learning curve.

Regular Torah readers know that most sofrim make sure that the first letter of almost every column in the Torah begins with a vav, the letter/word of connection, AND.

These lessons we are learning, how to connect with one another, when the natural and necessary modes of human connection have been declared dangerous for an indeterminate time, are ones that we hope and pray will stay with us when the ‘old normal’ returns. How much we will rejoice in that moment when the 6 foot (4 cubit, coincidence?) rule has passed.

What will we learn from this experience we can take with us? What connections will outlast and be strengthened through these challenges we are now facing and, hopefully, overcoming? Which will we gladly forgo? How much will we appreciate and value the old ways when we are finally allowed to express ourselves in the necessary tactile human manner which strengthens our immune systems and souls?

This past week my Rabbi and I had an unusual conversation about Covid 18. One of us corrected the other and said, Covid 19. It turned into a Dvar Tefillah, a Siddur Talk, about the fact that we call our primal standing prayer to God the Shmone Esre (the 18) when mathematically it’s really 19 for weekday davvening.

Because the vav that connects so much of the text of our highest revelatory document, the Torah, can mean both ‘but’ and ‘and’. In all the challenges we face, let us continue to correct each other, improve each other, challenge each other, BUT in ways that connect us more strongly. Let us continue to leverage the power of congregating (vayakhel), calling out to one another (vayikra), and connecting (vav) in ways we never knew we could.