“When a person presents an offering of grain to the Eternal” Leviticus 2:1


The Book of Leviticus opens with a very complex sacrificial system that was performed in the Temple of Jerusalem. The underlying idea is, in order to restore a broken relationship with the Divine, one has to offer something that is important. On Shavuot, for example, pilgrims were commanded to bring the first fruits — bikkurim — of their labour. 

The Pesach Haggadah we will read soon, God willing, retells the history of the Jewish people, quoting Deuteronomy 26:5, Arami oved avi, as a liturgical declaration for the ceremony of the first fruits. 

We have become accustomed to see overflowing shelves and we have forgotten to marvel before the abundance of food. The coronavirus pandemic that is growing before our eyes reminds us of our connection with the planet and of our human fragility before a microscopic virus that can claim so many lives. 

That is understandable; as an old medieval prayer reminds us, “from famine, war and plague, protect us”. Pandemic is one of the oldest fears of humankind. We feel powerless, we behave irrationally and our world appears as it really is, a fragile construction that we believed to be strong and eternal. We are told by the government to stay at home and to apply this new concept of “social distancing” to avoid spreading the virus. 

There is no doubt this crisis will be over, but we do not know when. However, we need to start assessing our priorities; the government is putting into place safety nests unheard of in our neo-liberal age. Maybe it is time to rethink how we care after each other? People rediscover the power of community. Maybe we can re-imagine a society where relationships are at the core of our priorities, with a renewed sense of solidarity and togetherness? 

Jewish history is a story of resilience, and we know very well that gam zeh ya’avor, this too shall pass. In the meantime, be safe, and stay in touch with one another. 

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