It’s been a hard week. Even while federal and state governments enforce (or at least encourage) social distancing, the president has egged on protestors who want to “reopen” the country.
I am appalled at this behavior and angry that it is being tolerated. “My Body/My Choice” reads one popular sign that women carry. To which I reply, “No, it is NOT your body alone. It’s everyone else’s body too. It’s my body. It’s my daughter’s body. It’s a stranger’s body, and it is not your choice or your right to endanger us.”
I am reminded of the tza’arat in this week’s Torah portion. Although often translated as leprosy, it probably means a curable skin condition. Our sages said it can also be seen as a manifestation of spiritual pollution.
And today, spiritual pollution is rampant. Here is an appalling example: A woman on Facebook claimed that 30 million jobs lost because of the coronavirus is much more serious than 30,000 lives lost.
Large numbers are hard to grasp. To her, 30 equals 30. It barely matters if one set is jobs and the other lives.
Small numbers are much easier to understand. Take the number one. One parent, one child, one brother or sister. Had she lost one family member to the virus, I imagine she would feel differently.
This week we observed Yom HaShoah, the date that commemorates the 6 million Jewish lives lost in the Holocaust. That’s another big number, another number that is hard to imagine. It is easier if you know a survivor, but they are aging and soon none will be left to tell us their stories.
It’s been a hard week. Trying to grasp the loss of so many lives, during the Holocaust especially, and also during this pandemic, is not easy. Trying to understand large numbers of people who seem to be suffering from spiritual pollution makes it even harder.
While I’m on the subject of pollution, this Monday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, in addition to being Yom HaShoah. It is fascinating and wonderful that the momentary pause in human activity caused by the pandemic has allowed the environment to bounce back.
I am not so naïve as to think that we will do anything to keep that momentum moving forward, however. I fear that the moment we go back to our normal lives we will go back completely, without any concern for the environmental damage we inflict on the planet every day.
It is easy in these times of isolation and fear to get caught up in the negative aspects of it all. Especially when adults who should know better behave like children, who concoct untrue conspiracy theories, and who attack innocent people for the sin of being different. Like the man who spray-painted swastikas all over a local synagogue.
My usual cheerful outlook on the world is under attack. I am lucky, because outside my window there is a baby bird walking along the edge of the pond, followed closely by its parent. And a few feet from them is a large crane that decided to holler at them, then stalk away.
Unfortunately, the antics of the wildlife outside my window cannot dispel my despair at the spiritual pollution that surrounds us. The only thing that can do that is the dedication of like-minded humans everywhere to fight the darkness, spread truth and understanding, and continue to perform gemilut chasidim, deeds of loving kindness, in the face of ignorance and hate.