Perhaps now, more than ever, I feel the interconnectedness of our world. When someone sneezes in Greece, a surge of illness follows in Georgia. The text I turn to the most these days comes from Midrash, what could best be described as rabbinic fan fiction. In one section related to the Book of Leviticus, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai offers a poignant parable saying, “Once upon a time, there were people aboard a ship. One of the passengers took out a drill and started drilling beneath their seat. Another passenger sitting nearby yelled, ‘what are you doing?!’ The driller said, ‘what do you care? This is my seat. I can do whatever I want here.’ The worried passenger replied, ‘[Even though you’re only drilling under your own seat] the water will rise up and flood all of us on this ship.’”
The wellbeing of our community is dependent upon each individual’s care and concern for their neighbor. We should not pretend to ourselves that our actions or decisions bear no consequences for those around us, especially when our tradition emphasizes the care we must give to our neighbor, to our family, to the weak, and to the vulnerable.
If we believe the words of Talmud (Shevuot 39a) that say the Jewish people are responsible for one another, then our efforts going forward must be to the protection and betterment not just of ourselves, but of everyone in our community.
In 5782, may our actions lead to improved health and wellbeing for all. May we act in ways that ensure the safety and longevity of our Jewish community, of the greater Atlanta community, and all that was created in the likeness of the Divine.
Rabbi Max Miller is an associate rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, and leads the NextDor 20s and 30s community.