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May the odds be ever in your favor

05/14/2020 10:20:16 AM


Everyone one knows that when you lose a game of rock-paper-scissors, you demand “best out of three,” so that you still have a chance to beat your opponent. You still have to win the next two games, but at least you have a fighting chance. And of course, if you lose any of the subsequent games, there is always “best out of five!” Or seven, or nine… However, with every last ditch effort to keep your hope of winning alive, the chances of winning potentially decrease. The odds were more in your favor winning that first game of rock paper scissors, than coming back from behind in a “best out of twenty one” match.

In the parshiyot B’har-Behukkotai, God commands the Israelites that they are responsible for their neighbors when they are in financial distress. “If your kinsman stumbles [financially] and comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side: do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, but fear your God.” (Leviticus 25:34) On this verse, our tradition comments that it is much easier to help someone when they stumble, than after they completely fall down (Sifra Behar 5). Drawing an analogy to a load atop a donkey that totters, the Midrash explains that a single person can lean on the load to prevent it and the donkey from toppling over. However, once everything falls, even five people can’t pick it all up. This comes to teach us that sometimes when a problem first gets underway, it is easier to deal with it right away, before the problem intensifies and becomes more complicated to solve. Thus, better to help someone financially when they first need it, than after they accrue a mountain of financial difficulties.

I can’t help but think about this advice as the world struggles to continue to shelter-in-place. We know that if we are to limit our social interactions with one another, then the virus won’t spread as rapidly and can be better controlled. We also know that the better we succeed at sheltering-in-place, and the more steps we take now to limit the spread of this virus, the better we will be at dealing with the crisis at hand in the long run. Like the donkey with a tottering load, it might already seem too heavy to push back into place, but just imagine how much more difficult it will be as the load continues to slip. And thus this Shabbat it is my prayer that our world can put the pieces in place today, to prevent the load from toppling further down the line. For if we can’t figure it out now, the more I feel like we are losing a game of rock-paper-scissors and the odds are increasingly being stacked against us.

Shabbat Shalom

Fri, December 1 2023 18 Kislev 5784