- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On May 29, 2020
- 0 Comments
First, it was the names that filled the front page of the New York Times, almost as preparation for what would come next. And then came the announcement in the form of a number: 100,000 souls of this country lost their lives to Covid-19. And with that the grim recognition that if we had quarantined two weeks or even one week earlier, the numbers would have been much lower.
Each person lost within the whole long number. Taken apart one by one, we begin to feel the texture of their lives. A sibling, a parent, a child, a colleague, a grandparent, a cousin, a friend. Each related to someone, connected by links in a chain of relationships and experiences. Each leaving behind stories of their lives and so many people who have turned into mourners.
100,000 exponentially grows because of the circle of loved ones devastated by sadness. There is an orbit of loss which has encircled our country. So many died because this virus does not discriminate and yet, unfortunately, societal inequalities made some much more vulnerable than others.
The numbers only mean something if each number represents someone, a real person who matters.
In last week’s Torah portion, as the people prepared to make their way through the wilderness, God instructed Moses to take a census. Rashi, the 11th century commentator, offered a crucial understanding of why God would want to count:
Because [the Israelites] were precious to God. God counts them every now and then: when they went forth from Egypt God counted them. When many of them fell in consequence of their having worshipped the golden calf God counted them to ascertain the number of those left; when God commanded them to make a Tabernacle so God’s presence could be with them, God again took their census; for on the first day of Nisan the Tabernacle was erected and shortly afterwards, on the first day of Iyar, God counted them.
Each of those 100,000 counted in life and were precious. Though we do not know all of their names, we know some and have lost others ourselves. They shall not die in vain. How we go forward and what demands we make of our leadership may help not only to alter the trajectory of this virus but may save many thousands of lives as well. They and we are all precious.
Please note that we plan to remember and honor those who have died from Covid at a special Qabbalat Shabbat service NEXT Friday, June 5, 2020.