This pandemic is exhausting. Just when we think it’s almost gone, a new variant rears its ugly head and the whole thing starts all over again.
But this time it’s different. Because many of us are vaccinated. The vaccines can’t keep us completely healthy, but they can keep the virus at bay, making it far less dangerous. Many vaccinated people who catch it have no symptoms at all. Unvaccinated people? They’re dying in greater numbers than before.
If you haven’t been vaccinated and can be, do it now. A congregant reminded me that because of pre-existing health reasons, not everyone can be vaccinated. This is quite different from choosing to not get the vaccine. If your doctor has told you that being vaccinated is contraindicated for you, follow your physician’s instructions, and remember to stay masked and avoid crowded places.
Please don’t be like the young man who was about to be intubated, and with his last words begged the doctor to give him the vaccine. She took his hand and softly told him that it’s too late.
I want to stand on top of a mountain and shout. Listen! Do it! NOW!
This must be a fraction of Moses’s feelings when he knew that he couldn’t enter the Promised Land with his people, and was anxious to make sure that they succeeded. Throughout the book of Deuteronomy he lectured, cajoled, blamed, encouraged, and recited commandment after commandment. Anything to ensure they would be successful and follow God’s laws.
This week we read one of the best known laws that he shared, one that is more a declaration than a commandment:
Shema Yisrael! Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echad.
Listen Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
And immediately following is one of the oddest commandments of all: “You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6).
Being commanded to love is a tall order. Love is an emotion. You can’t force someone to have an emotion, can you? Or can you? God and Moses seem to think it’s possible, and they give us the tools.
How? With all our heart and soul and strength.
When? At bedtime. In the morning. Always.
Where? At home. Away from home. Everywhere.
What? Remind ourselves constantly.
Why? For our children. For ourselves. For God.
The love that the Torah commands goes far beyond mere emotion. It is an expression of being in relationship with God. A full-time, whole-hearted relationship.
The words of the V’ahavta don’t tell us how to worship God. That’s elsewhere in Torah. This passage tells us how to love God and how to let that love infuse our very being, our every action, each moment. And every time we walk through the doorway of a Jewish home, we are reminded of these words, placed in every mezuzzah.
This unreserved, full-time love isn’t easy. Perhaps if we spread that love around, rather than concentrate it in one direction, it will come more easily, feel more comfortable.
After all, there is so much to love. Step outside your door and see the world before you, filled with people and nature, animals and buildings. Vaccines and peaches and air conditioning.
May we all be blessed with the ability to love unconditionally – love God, love ourselves, love our fellow humans, and love the planet on which we reside.