In Chapter 12 of this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, there is a verse (there are many verses) that says, “[When you are in Canaan], you shall not act at all as we now act here, every man as he pleases . . . .” The verse is applicable to the present time in the United States.
We are in the midst of pandemic; covid-19 shows no signs of vanishing. We need to defeat it, or at least tame it before a vaccine is developed. (The Torah is full of plagues that afflict the Israelites, but I am sure that covid-19 is not a plague that God sent to earth to weed out sinners.) Now, across the Country, many men (and women) behave like “every man [or woman] as he [or she] pleases.” Social distancing or masks, which limit the spread of the coronavirus, are a small price to pay to limit the spread of covid-19, but some people are balking at the small steps. We have gym owners who violate the government’s regulations to prevent the spread of the disease, cheered on by small-minded people. We have people who host parties, weddings, and concerts that put hundreds of people at risk, not only those people who attend these events. I feel sorry for people who lost their livelihood, even temporarily, but the community at large suffers from the thinking that every man can do as he pleases.
Moses in D’varim instructs the Israelites to behave cohesively when the cross the river. Don’t follow other gods. Don’t follow any person, including loved ones, who tempt you to worship other gods. Cohesiveness is the key to preservation, of culture, of religion, or of collective health.
We need to act cohesively, not act as he or she pleases. The small steps that can limit the spread of covid-19 need to be taken: wear a mask, and keep six feet apart if possible. The result will be we will be able metaphorically conquer Canaan, and we will defeat this disease.