We are living in a difficult and unprecedented time. Separated from our friends and family, the cocoon of safety we usually feel is shattered. Asking why, but failing to come up with an answer that fully satisfies us. Still we must also be optimistic, we live in the greatest country in the world, with wonderful medical facilities and dedicated doctors. Unlike centuries ago, science has opened up our understanding of the illness that threatens us. If we are careful, we will get through this, it’s a matter of time, patience and following the dictates of the health authorities.
Still, our lives have been upended by a tiny virus, one that you only measured in Nano terms. We can’t see it, but it’s causing devastating harm. The holy Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov taught that every occurrence in our lives be an inspiration that we learn from. There is a powerful lesson to be drawn in the sphere of spirituality.
We can sense our soul, but it’s still abstract, and we can put an absolute finger on it. We feel alive, and understand that a life force animates us, but we can’t measure or quantify it. When we perform a mitzvah we also cannot understand its cosmic impact.
There is a story of nefarious guy who passed away. Known for his stinginess and poor character, the prosecutor in the heavenly court awaited the arrival of his soul for its final judgment with anticipation. There couldn’t be a better case, he had done no good is his life, never helped another or performed a mitzvah of any type. The court was called to order and the prosecutor presented his case. Suddenly one angel popped up, “you can’t send him to eternal damnation, he once gave a nickel to a poor man on the street.” The heavenly court was turned into a turmoil, the judges conferred with the prosecutors, finally they issued their ruling, “give him back his nickel and let him go to hell.”
Mitzvahs can only be performed in this physical world, they are a divine spiritual opportunity given to humans to connect to G-d above and to care for our fellow humans in this dimension. One cannot know the effect of our actions, even small mitzvah can have a cosmic effect. Our physical senses do not give us the ability to see the spiritual dimension, we sense something is there, but cannot comprehend it. The tragedy of this virus teaches us there is much more happening in this world that we cannot see, still it has an influence on our lives.
Now there is one mitzvah we can easily perform. We must seize this moment to reach to those who are at home alone, in particular the elderly. Pick up the phone if you know someone, they may be very lonely, in need of groceries or other assistance. This is a mitzvah we can all do in this critical time. It will uplift another person and we can never fully understand the spiritual impact of this act of kindness.
Rabbi David Eliezrie is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.