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How's Everybody Doing? -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 02/01/24

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah


February 01, 2024

22 Shevat 5784

Parashat Yitro


I don’t know about you, but I never knew that Elmo was on X or Twitter.   Apparently, Elmo is quite active on X, and this past Monday, Elmo posted the following: “Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?” That post was re-tweeted over 55,000 times and has been viewed over 200 million times. It’s impossible to calculate how many responses there were to Elmo’s simple question. While a few people said that they were doing well and others took the opportunity to make some kind of a joke, thousands and thousands of people expressed great sadness and pain. Many of us are not doing so well. It was so overwhelming that the marketing professionals who handle Elmo’s X account had to post a follow-up reminding everyone about the importance of checking in on friends and assessing their emotional well-being. Perhaps Elmo is on to something! In this week’s Torah portion, Moses was reunited with his family. His father-in-law Yitro arrived at the Israelite camp with Moses’s wife Tzipporah and their two sons Gershom and Eliezer. The text tells us about how Moses bowed in greeting to his father-in-law, and then the two of them engaged in conversation about the Exodus from Egypt. In other words—shop talk. Moses never said a word to his two sons. There was no “check-in” to see how everyone was doing after what must have been a harrowing experience for all. Although we don’t know very much about Moses’s family life, we do know that his two sons did not follow their father into leadership roles among the Israelites. In contrast, Moses’s brother Aaron raised his own sons to follow him into the priesthood. Could this silence between father and sons have contributed to the sons' not wanting to follow in their father’s footsteps? Who knows? But, I know that I’ve always been upset by this lack of communication between Moses and his sons. If we’ve learned anything from the last four years, it’s the importance of staying connected and checking in on one another. In fact, a recently completed study at Cambridge University found that people of faith coped much better during COVID than nonreligious people (more info here). And while I would like to believe that it was God checking in on religious people and making sure they were okay, I’m practical enough to know that it was the members of religious communities checking in on one another that brought about this result. It was human beings doing God’s work. Elmo inadvertently reminded us that our obligation to check in on one another did not end with COVID. So, for those who have made it this far, how is everybody doing? I’d love to hear from you to find out.Shalom,RAF.

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