If the last year has taught us anything, it is that our physical and mental health are both equally important. Around the world it has been a tough year, but especially in Australia with constant lockdowns making planning anything almost impossible.
Lockdowns, designed to keep us physically healthy from an invisible virus, have a devastating effect on our mental health. Since the global pandemic began, people have struggled with the uncertainty that the virus has wrought on society. This has resulted in record numbers of people experiencing mental health issues and needing to seek out support from social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
Due to the pandemic, waiting lists have ballooned and mental health care professionals are reporting that there is a crisis on our hands. So, as we mark R U OK Day today, 9 September 2021, a national day dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide awareness, it has never been more important to check in with our friends and loved ones. R U OK Day aims for people to reach out and ask each other if they are okay and have important conversations about mental health and struggles that people may be experiencing.
Across the country with millions people in lockdown, it has been a year in which people have been forced to give up on many things that make life happy and exciting. The lockdowns are necessary in order to prevent the spread of disease and sickness, but it still takes a massive toll. If we cannot gather together to mark sacred occasions, birthdays, weddings, funerals and the rich tapestry of life that brings meaning and happiness to our lives we find ourselves depleted and sad.
However, as Jewish people we are believers, and we know that despite the restrictions we can show up together and pull through the toughest of times.
This week, Parshat Vayelech includes some of the most fundamental principles of faith. With just 30 verses in this week’s Torah reading, it contains the smallest number of verses in this week’s reading (although not the fewest words or letters!).
Moshe informs the people that after he dies Joshua will take over as leader. The succession plan was meant to instil confidence in the Jewish people that they would have strong leadership when they entered into the land of Israel. Moshe appointing Joshua was meant to symbolize that our people is only strong if we recognise the fact that we are interdependent upon each other. Our success is measured in our unity and ability to gather and follow our leaders.
Moshe also highlights the battles ahead that the people will face upon entering the land of Israel, by drawing on the successful battles that they fought in the desert against the Kings Sihon and Og. These were monumental battles which were heroically won by the Jewish people but also symbolized the danger and difficulty that they would face ahead once they entered into the land of Israel.
When Moshe exhorts the people to have faith in G-d and be strong and courageous, he is trying to gird them for the long slog ahead. Conquering the land of Israel and becoming a nation and a people will be full of challenges. There will be many battles and trying times ahead.
However, Moshe encourages the people noting that anything painful or difficult that they will endure will only be a temporary state of being, as G-d is with the people and has blessed them.
With this, I leave you with the hope that better days are coming, and we will be celebrating good times ahead soon.
Wishing you a Shana Tova.
Rabbi Gabi and Mushka