Finding Pandemic Parallels in the Parsha

This past Wednesday evening, in less than an hour, the President announced a cessation of all travel from Europe, the NBA canceled its season, and Tom Hanks, yes, Tom Hanks, was diagnosed with this fast-spreading disease. My wife, Lauren, quoting a comedian she had just read, commented, “What a year this hour has been!” We laughed, and then we looked at each other, realizing that, for the first time in a long time, we were both truly afraid.

King Solomon once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Our feeling of unease, this unspoken panic bubbling beneath the surface of the world’s 7.6 billion people, goes back to the Bible itself. How does the Bible respond to panic? I started thinking about biblical cataclysms, like the flood during the days of Noah. Can’t we all imagine how Noah must have felt gathering supplies as the rain started to fall? Like the door of Noah’s ark, doors everywhere are closing, sealing us inside, and shutting the rest of the world out.

But in preparing my sermon for last Friday night, maybe there is a better answer. Like Noah, and like us, Moses too was faced with a world-altering event. While Noah sealed himself off from the world, I saw a fearlessness in Moses that changed how I think about today’s pandemic.

I had already prepared a sermon last week. Ironically, it was about procrastination and all the trouble it leads to. I liked it, but given the events of last, it will have to wait for another, more normal time. Until then, I hope Moses’ message from the Torah portion resonates with you. In addition to fear and anxiety, maybe even panic so many people are feeling, maybe this virus can bring us closer to each other after all.

Here is a link to the full sermon, and I’d love any thoughts or comments you have.

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