You may have heard of the remedy technique “the hair of the dog that bit you,” but how about a look at the snake that bit you? In this week’s Torah portion, Hukat, the people get kvetchy (that’s nothing new) and God sends a plague of poisonous snakes as a punishment. When Moses prays on behalf of the people, God tells him to make a copper snake and mount it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten by a snake needs only to look at the copper snake and they are cured.
Maybe even more fascinating than the Torah passage itself are the commentaries on it—for example, the Ramban explains that looking at the snake after being bitten should make the effects even worse (best medical practice in Spain circa 1200CE). So this is a big miracle. As Ramban puts it, “It is the Torah’s way that every event is a miracle within a miracle. It removes the damage by means of the damager, and cures the illness by means of its cause.”
Ramban was certainly correct – removing an illness by means of its cause is a miracle on top of a miracle and he could be talking about the miraculous Covid-19 vaccine just as much as the copper snake in our parsha. The very idea of a vaccine – that a little exposure to disease can create immunity to that disease – is both counterintuitive and wondrous, and maybe the Torah was giving a little hint at it 3100 years before the first vaccine was invented.
Our miraculous vaccine has changed things more quickly than anyone could have imagined even just a few months ago—Baruch HaShem. As was communicated in our email earlier this week, the synagogue has decided to follow the governor’s guidance to lift mask mandates for vaccinated people. That being said, we also understand that not everyone will feel comfortable returning to “normal practices” at the same pace. So, we will continue to set up chairs in the back of the sanctuary in socially distanced pods and folks are welcome to sit there. We will also continue to set up tables for Kiddish lunch inside and outside of the activity center so people can sit wherever they would like. Shabbat youth services will continue to follow the same policies we’ve had in place previously.
Also, of course, anyone is welcome to continue to wear a mask in the synagogue. Please, if you do see someone wearing a mask try not to make assumptions about their vaccination status or medical conditions. Everyone is going to do what makes them comfortable at the pace that makes them comfortable and it isn’t our business to assume or judge. And of course, as much as possible, all of our services and programs will continue to be presented simultaneously live and virtually so we can continue to reach as many people as possible.
Starting this Sunday I will be taking some vacation time and I will return on July 12th. If you have a pastoral emergency during that time please contact Rabbi Dalton, for other synagogue business you can contact David Goldstein. Though I won’t be writing these messages or recording videos during these weeks, look for messages and/or videos from Rabbi Dalton and Cantor Goldberg while I am away. You can watch Rabbi Dalton’s video Dvar Torah for this by clicking on the video link below.
I am looking forward to seeing you in the sanctuary Friday night at 7:15pm and Saturday morning at 9:15am. I will be speaking at both services and both will also be available on the live stream. At the 8:15pm Saturday mincha/maariv service Cantor Goldberg will be delivering the Torah lesson.
See you in shul,