A person is a whole world; each of us is important

A person is a whole world.

People exist as their own entity. People have memories unique to them, and they have their own joys, preferences, dislikes, and struggles. They are their own system of DNA and brain cells, blood and tissue that constantly changes and grows and adapts as they grow and age.

A person is a whole world.

Just as our world is made up of societies of people, people operate within their own intricate systems of humanity. Their unique life society is constructed from individuals they have met and been connected to throughout their days, whether it is their childhood friends, classmates, co-workers, inherited family, constructed family, fellow parents, fellow congregants, or shopkeepers.

People work within these groups throughout their days, and these groups, or this life society, is unique to them.

A person is a whole world.

The rabbis of the Mishnah, one of the earliest compilations of rabbinic thought from the third century CE, taught that, “If any person caused a single life to perish from Israel, he is deemed by Scripture as if he had caused a whole world to perish, and anyone who saves a single soul from Israel, he is deemed as if he had saved a whole world” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).

This passage shows us just how important a single life is. Each of us is important. Each of us has a life worth living. Each of us is a whole world of being.

A person is a whole world.

All of us, worlds unto ourselves, populate the planet. As we live within our own life societies, we move about our own inch of the planet. We easily enter into the orbit of other people’s worlds and their own life society. And they enter into the orbit of our world after meeting us.

Eventually, we’ll have unintentionally connected with people we never knew existed. This concept of humanity’s interconnectivity was popularized by the 1993 film “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Today, in this ever-emerging landscape of the new coronavirus, we feel humanity’s interconnectivity all too well. What was once a virus limited to a city on the other side of the world is now an illness that has easily spread into many countries, states, and cities.

People are increasingly afraid to leave their homes, to enter communal spaces, and to travel beyond the familiar. People are hoarding food and sanitizing equipment.

And racist incidents have increased exponentially as Asians have become targets of racial slurs and physical attacks. The disease of bigotry has also spread into dark corners of the internet where anti-semitic conspiracy theories blame Jews for the spread of the virus.

Fear so easily begets hatred. It is extraordinarily contagious. But what we know from the spread of the coronavirus is that we humans share this one planet. This is our home.

We are all intimately connected to one another. In this time of threat to the human population, the worst thing we can do is feed into fear that only further divides us.

In this moment, it is critical to our human survival that we rise and fight for the human race. To see each person as a world worth honoring and saving.

Washing our hands and staying home if we’re sick is not only an act of self-preservation, it is an act of compassion and responsibility toward others.

A person is a whole world. It is up to us to honor and protect every person who inhabits this larger world that we all share.

Student Rabbi Thalia Halpert Rodis, Temple Beth Ha Shalom, Williamsport


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