Facebook Post by Rabbi Perlin in the Time of Coronavirus (5/1/2020)

Friday Post 5.1.20 :  Torah Troubles this Shabbat

by Amy R. Perlin, D.D.

Leviticus 19:17 “You shall not hate your kinsman in your heart. Reprove your neighbor, but incur no guilt because of him.”  Rashi says to the later point, “Rebuke him, but do not shame him publicly.”  And then verse 18 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Well, I am struggling.  We are all wearing masks to live Leviticus 19:18. I wear a mask and will for the foreseeable future, because, “I love my neighbor as myself.”  For your protection, I wear my mask, and I expect that you will do the same.

So, here is my problem.  Leviticus 19:17 tells me not to hate my neighbor in my heart.   I can call him out for his lack of a mask, but I can’t shame him or have really negative thoughts about him.  But, that isn’t my reality.  When I see unmasked people, or read in the paper that people and their children are going to supermarkets without masks, I get more than angry.  And don’t get me started on the anger I feel toward those who want this to all go away by the summer.  These are selfish people.  And, I have other adjectives for them, as well.  How can I keep silent when there are people acting with no regard for science and public health?

I am heartbroken that these unmasked individuals and those who are not heeding the current warnings, or looking at the fact that the last global pandemic lasted TWO YEARS, have reduced me to name-calling, in my heart.  The Torah would teach that I am not to hate another in my heart.  But, I can’t help how I feel.  This stupidity is risking my life, the life of my loved ones… your life!  That is unacceptable to me.

So, I have Torah troubles this Shabbat.  My heart is filled with love, but there is no room in my heart for those who are not wearing masks, those who are risking public health, those who act irresponsibly while people are dying, and those who put their needs before the greater good.  I do love my neighbor as myself. Is it too much to expect the same in return?