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    Coronavirus (Part 15)

    Moshe Rabbeinu proposed an elaborate test using incense to determine who was in the right in the quarrel of Korach and his followers. An interesting question is posed. Since the manna, acted as a Geiger counter of sorts to determine if one had sinned or behaved properly. For if he sinned, the mon fell far from their home. So, why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu simply say, “Let’s check in the morning whether the mon falls close or far from your home and we’ll have proof whether you’re righteous or not.” The Shevet Mussar answers that during the machlokes, the fighting of Korach, the mon did not fall. This is a fascinating piece of information especially since he says that during the sin of the golden calf the mon did fall. He elaborates that the reason why the mon didn’t fall during the fighting of Korach is because of an axiom of the Shelah HaKodesh, “Machlokes achas docheh mei’ah parnasos – One fight can wreck a hundred livelihoods.” Thus, the fighting of Korach brought to a halt the livelihood of the mon for all of the Bnei Yisroel. I believe this lesson is very pertinent during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The many livelihoods terminated by this virus and the number of successful business that have been permanently shuttered by this pandemic is staggering. This should make us stop and consider if perhaps there is too much discord and fighting in our midst. This is not the only indicator that there is such a problem. We are taught that our synagogues and our study halls are considered a Mikdash Me’at, a mini Temple. We are also taught, “Kol dor shelo nivneh Beis HaMikdash b’yamav, ke-ilu chorav b’yamav – Every generation in which the Temple was not built in its time is considered as if it was destroyed anew in that generation.” And the reason for its destruction was sinas chinam, meaningless hatred, petty enmity, and groundless dislike. Not only did Hashem banish us for over three months from our shuls and yeshivos, even now when we are slowly coming back, the virus is keeping us at a distance from each other and it’s still causing us to cover our faces with masks. Hashem seems to be telling us, “Things are not in order with your relationships.” I notice something else that’s interesting. Even when we come back from our porch minyamin, (in the United Kingdom they call them garden minyanim), and slowly re-enter our shuls with limited registration, people are davening in different places with a different set of individuals. It’s almost as if Hashem is telling us, “I want you to re-evaluate your behavior with your social circle.” Moshe Rabbeinu instructed to use the ketores, the incense to halt the plague. Rav Leibel Katz, zt”l, zy”a, in his wonderful sefer Ohel Aryeh, suggests that the ketores is an example of achdus. One of the eleven ingredients of the ketores is the foul smelling chelb’na, galbanum. By allowing it to be introduced amongst the other sweet smelling ingredients is a message of acceptance and achdus, and because of this it is found to be a sweet smell by Hashem and it therefore halts plagues which come because of discord and a lack of unity. Wearing masks and social distancing does not easily lend itself to being friendly. So, we need to compensate. While we can’t shake hands or smile at each other since our faces are covered, we need instead to greet each other heartily, spend the extra time inquiring of one another how we are coping, and we need to retrain ourselves to be interested and nice to everyone and not just to those in our clique. Especially we need to take notice of those around us who could use some friendly attention. Remember, we are taught in Pirkei Avos, “Kol she’ruach habrios nochah heimenu, ruach HaMakom nochah heimenu – Whoever people are at ease with, Hashem is happy with them.” The barometer, the litmus test of whether Hashem is happy with us is determined by whether we are easy to get along with. May we use this pandemic as a springboard to ‘up our game’ in the social arena and in that merit may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.