Ki teitze. “When you go out.” These are the first words of this week’s Torah portion.
I stopped reading and my mind started to wander. What happens when we go out during a pandemic? When we visit a friend, go shopping, get on an airplane, make art or sing or dance?
What happens when every time we go out, we find a world that has changed in unexpected ways. A world where the very air that we breathe is a threat, and the enemy is invisible.
This was supposed to be over by now. Or so we thought. It’s not, and we are facing the possibility that it may go on for a long time. Maybe years.
Living during a pandemic makes demands on us. But so does living during any era. There are essential questions that we each need to ask ourselves. What impact do I have on the world, and what impact do I want to have? Or am I planning to quietly go about my business and ignore everyone and everything else?
The Torah has an opinion about which path we should choose: “You must not remain indifferent.” (Deut. 22:3) But this brief statement doesn’t do justice to the impact that indifference can have. Elie Wiesel, the writer who survived the horrors of the Holocaust said this:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Wiesel echoes one of the key messages of the Torah, that we cannot remain indifferent to the needs of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger who dwells among us. Nor can we remain indifferent to the needs of anyone in our communities… even those who refuse to get vaccinated.
Instead, Wiesel said, “Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.”
These are our marching orders, if we care to listen. Even in this changed and challenging world, we can use our voices, our time, our talents, and our financial resources to make the world a better place. Or we can choose a quiet life with no responsibility for others or the community. It’s your choice.