For the Sake of One

Yael Eckstein  |  June 25, 2020

Packing meals for delivery at Mana Hama Soup Kitchen during coronavirus crisis
Food distribution at soup kitchens during COVID-19 virus pandemic. Man packing prepared meals on table for delivery.

But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?” — Numbers 16:22

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32.

As we watched the coronavirus sweep across the globe in recent months, one of the most striking lessons we learned is that we are all connected. What impacts one person on one side of the world affects another living thousands of miles away.

Yet, the other critical lesson is that we also have the ability to choose how we affect others. Hundreds of thousands of us across the world have stayed in our homes, donned protective masks, and practiced social distancing so that we can help slow the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable among us.

We have the power to impact one another for the good.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about Korah’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron. His movement was co-sponsored by two other disgruntled men, Dathan and Abiram, and eventually was joined by 250 others. When God made His intention clear to punish everyone, Moses and Aaron pleaded on their behalf: “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

They raised a good point that is still debated today: Should others be punished because of the sins of one person?

Albert Einstein once observed: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.” All people, even from a scientific perspective, are really one entity. And so, yes, it makes perfect sense that the actions of one of us affect the rest of us. Judaism says that spiritually speaking, this principle holds true, as well. The sins of one person affect us all. But, equally true, the good deeds of one person can impact the world.

We are all together traveling in a vessel we call the world. If the ship goes down, we all go down. By the same token, if the boat gets somewhere, we all get there, too. We are all interconnected and influence each other whether we admit it or not. As John Donne famously penned, “No man is an island.”

So the big question is how will we influence the world today? Every day, we can make the world more physically toxic and spiritually polluted. Or, we can choose to bring light and healing, love and restoration.

Your turn: What will you do today to impact others for the good? Share your answer below.

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