Facebook Post by Rabbi Perlin in the Time of Coronavirus (5/24/2020)
Sunday’s Post 5.24.20: Social-Distancing at Sinai
by Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, D.D.
Just imagine the scene: God and Moses are putting the finishing touches on the Ten Commandments. Moses says to God, “My people don’t really like being told what to do. They are really into their freedom now, after all those years of being slaves. How about we call them the “Ten Suggestions” or the “Ten Recommendations.” And God replies, “Not a chance. Have you met MY people? Too many of them arrogantly ignore suggestions and recommendations, thinking they know better. At least if we call them “commandments” we’ll have a fighting chance that more of them will make the right choice.”
God knew that people need rules, commands, and clear guidance. Our leaders could take a lesson from God’s playbook. Every county, state, and federal guideline and recommendation is different and some are conflicting. We need a clear set of rules and restrictions that apply to everyone from the worshipper to the walker. Too many think that freedom means the ability to endanger others in a host of ways. As I watch an outdoor graduation on the beach in Florida with virtually no social-distancing and absolutely no masks, my blood boils. As we see story after story on the news showing Memorial Day weekend events with no social-distancing and no masks, we can’t help but be angry that this weekend which honors sacrifice for freedom is becoming, instead, a celebration of freedom with no sacrifice at all. God knew that humanity could be selfish. God knew that people need commandments and clear rules. And nothing, my friends, has changed since Sinai.
On Friday, we will celebrate Shavuot and imagine the time when we stood at Sinai together to receive the Torah. There was social distancing at Sinai. In Exodus 19: 12 &13 we are taught that our ancestors were told not to touch the mountain or go close to it on penalty of death. And Exodus 19: 14 & 15 we then learn that the people were to wash and that men were to stay away from women for three days. Washing and social distancing is not a new idea. And after the giving of the commandments, Exodus 20: 18 states, “ So the people remained at a distance…”
If it was good enough for Sinai, it is good enough for us.