How Do We Choose?
Rabbi’s Message – July 21, 2020
Right now we are all grappling with so many decisions about our future. Sometimes that future is only the next 5 minutes and sometimes that future spans the next several months. As we look to the fall and the complexity of choices regarding back-to-school options, I am reminded of a story from our tradition:
A well-known Rabbi discovers that a bag of coins have gone missing. Even though the coins were not his, the Rabbi seeks to solve the mystery. He goes to see one of his former messengers who had an opportunity to steal the money. The Rabbi hopes it isn’t true. Upon the Rabbi’s questions, the young man offers to repay the Rabbi the sum of the money in installments. The Rabbi agrees. Years later, the original bag of money is found in someone else’s possession. With this new information, the Rabbi goes to return all of the messenger’s money, and he questions why the messenger took the blame. The messenger responds that he made a small sacrifice with the payments over time, in order to protect the less fortunate individual from accusation, who likely needed the money. And as all rabbinic stories go, the messenger is then greatly rewarded for his actions and his family is blessed for generations.
Why this story? It teaches us that sometimes we have to make sacrifices – big or small – in order to serve those that are more in need. As we continue to navigate the pandemic as a community, and as we learn more about the virus, there are things that we can do to protect those around us. These things might be a slight imposition on us – for example, wearing a mask – but there is a greater good to consider. As a younger, otherwise healthy adult, a bout of COVID-19 likely would not kill me – but I wear a mask to protect those who are higher risk.
As a parent and educator, I know full well that back-to-school decisions are hard right now. The question of whether students and everyone else in the school community, will be in-person has become quite a loaded one. While to some extent, each individual, family, and school has to make their own choices, we must also remember the potential consequences to others. Recently, I saw a parent suggest and recommend full virtual learning to all those who are able to make that choice in order to create a safer learning space for those who cannot opt out of in-person learning. This reminded me of our messenger. As a parent, I don’t envy the prospect of a large portion of the upcoming year being virtual. I also don’t look forward to the continued physical distancing measures, but I know that the choices I make may save another life.
We are all making tough decisions as we navigate how much and when to “re-open” our lives. There are no clear-cut “right” answers to what risks are “acceptable.” My hope is that we can weigh our options not by what is easiest, cheapest, or most beneficial to us individually, but by the best of our Jewish values of communal responsibility and protection of one another. My hope is also that as we make these decisions – and recognize that they will be different for different people – that we can be supportive of each other rather than judgmental. We do not walk in another’s shoes or know exactly what they are experiencing in this challenging time.