Corona Lessons from a Double Torah Portion

Nothing in the Torah is for naught. The Jewish nation doesn’t believe in serendipity and happenstance. Everything, everyone, and every parsha has its place.

In this weeks parsha, Vayak’hel and Pekudei join together for a single reading. This is not always the case, but this year, it is. It is very significant.

According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vayak’hel connotates community and assembly. Pekudei refers to individuality and itemization.

There is a dynamic between parts of the soul.  On the one hand the soul yearns for collective conscience and communal identity. On the other hand, it aspires towards individual uniqueness and identity. We need them both.

The joining of these parshas illustrates this paradox. How do we integrate and unite the collective and individual pieces of ourselves?

The Rebbe points out that it would be sensible to believe that Parshat Pekudei should precede Parshat Vayak’hel.  Individual development should come first, before communal identity and building.

We are often taught that you need to be someone before contributing to something. That you need to cultivate your individuality before you can take on the world. That even on a personal level, a fully developed self is a prerequisite for partnership.

Don’t you need the parts to build the whole?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe concludes, based upon the fact that the order in the Torah is the opposite, Vayak’hel (community) before Pekudai (individual), that is after we contribute to a collective environment that is infused with love and unity that we will see the individual flourish and perfect itself.

After we build the whole, we will recognize the parts that radiate and differentiate.

So here we find ourselves reading a double parsha about the incredible importance of community, collective consciousness, building up each other, unifying.

Everything has its place.

There is no part of humanity that can escape the Coronavirus Pandemic.

We are in it together, as a worldwide public and community.

As these parshas join together, we give pause to what is happening around us –

Opposing Government factions are jointly mobilizing efforts, addressing the crisis together, coordinating and cooperating in different fields.

World Citizens are keeping each other company by singing, dancing and playing music from their balconies and porches.

“Flash Weddings” are taking place. Relegated to gatherings of 100 people, and now 10, couples are marrying in courtyards and backyards, cobbling together an intimate event. Everyone is lending a helping hand.

Neighbors are looking out for one another.  The elderly are being carefully monitored by those around them. Residents are pitching in.

It is awe inspiring. We are in giving mode.

How will this impact the individuals taking part in these processes and events?

Many new insights could emerge for an individual.

We are being encouraged to ask ourselves what are we living for? Where do we put our energies? Why do we get up? We are coming face to face with our core values. We are shedding routines and habits in order to help the greater collective.

We will most probably have grown, changed. We will have learned our unique part through a collective, powerful experience. How can we not? This is the hope.

The shared, the assembled, influencing the separate, the single individual.

The whole giving birth to the parts.

Vayak’hel followed by Pekudai.

About the Author
Karen Wolfers Rapaport is an educator, therapist , writer, and proud mother. Leading groups throughout Israel, she integrates psychology, philosophy, and language instruction for clients that include the Office of the Prime Minister, Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics and for corporate clients and organizations including TEVA Pharmaceuticals, OrCam Technologies and Yad Vashem. Karen is also a featured writer for several Jewish websites. She aims to unify students from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
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