Summer is (nearly) officially here! It is strange to see so many people out at restaurants, together in groups, or just walking down the street without a mask. It is lovely to get to smile at passersby again, to engage a bit more with the humanity around us, and it can be deeply uncomfortable. The threat to unvaccinated children is still very real. Nearly weekly I am reminded of the fact that my child is still susceptible to this virus. Yesterday, my child said, “We can play together when the pandemic is over. The pandemic is over!” It broke my heart that this little person knows the word “pandemic,” and that his short life has been so deeply shaped by it. I want to tell him that we can play together with anyone he wants to, but our family is still being cautious.
This week’s parsha, Chukkat, in the book of Numbers describes the purification ritual by which an individual must cleanse themselves of ritual impurity before interacting with the community. The text sounds very familiar: separation from community, quarantining for a specific number of days, ensuring that it is safe for the individual to return to their families and communities. While it sounds like the governor will lift the mask mandate now that we’ve reached the vaccination benchmark, we each must make the right choices for our families. As summer gatherings approach, let us remember that the value of saving a life, pikuach nefesh, is more important than any other in our tradition. We must nurture our souls with connections to friends and family, but we must also take care of those precious souls who have been entrusted to our care. Our tradition has always been keenly aware of how our choices affect those around us; and so too should we.