“We are obviously deeply pained that more and more people are getting ill and that others have died. Every human being, Jew or gentile, is of infinite value and to lose even one of them is losing a whole world.
May those who are ill soon get better!
But for all those who will stay alive, and that will, with God’s help, be all of us, it is a wakeup call, we have not heard in ages.
And here’s the reason why:
… until now… we have been deafened by the curse of taking our lives for granted. We tell… that we have almost everything under control, and that we’re close to becoming the masters of the Universe. One more step, a bit more patience, and we’ll be there: absolute certainty; absolute security; absolute health.
And now,… we have fallen into the hands of one tiny virus that forces us to our knees, causing us not only to be aware that we’ve lost our certainty, but to realize that we never had it to begin with!
And this wake-up call is actually an enormous blessing, enabling us to become genuine realists. This tiny virus forces us to admit that our self-assured sense of health is a farce, and that our certainty of being able to breathe, walk, speak and think, come what may, is all wishful thinking.
How wise were the sages of Israel when they instituted the custom of making a blessing on almost anything, whether it is eating, drinking, observing natural phenomena, or smelling extravagant aromas. They depicted all these activities as nothing less than totally miraculous.
And how did they come up with the bizarre suggestion that we should say a blessing after we have relieved ourselves? Who would ever think of making a blessing on something as physical as that? Why honor something as animalistic as needing to use the restroom, by placing it before God and declaring that He ‘created in human beings openings and hollow spaces, and it is revealed and known before Your Throne of Honor that if [even] one of them would close, it would be impossible to survive and stand before You, even for a moment’?
For the sages, all this was totally wondrous. Nothing was taken for granted, and all was seen in the light of radical amazement… They knew that to take things for granted is to be spiritually dead…
…This unforeseen interruption gives us the time to meditate on our lives, learn Torah, read books of wisdom we would otherwise never get to, and above all, to pray as we never did before.
… our wisdom is inferior even to dust and that we are confronted with a situation that has thrown the entire world into chaos. We stand in terror and in awe, asking what will happen now. What is our future? And we are aware that nobody knows the answer, not even our greatest experts, and surely not our leaders.
All of this is in fact very liberating. It creates new space in our minds and souls and offers us opportunities that we forgot existed.
…What a marvelous opportunity to make a new start! We suddenly become aware that life is a gift that is unearned and it may be a little dangerous to feel too much at home in this world. We are offered the chance to make a distinction between the vital and the futile…
While we still have no clue as to what coronavirus will do to our world, our health, and our finances, we all recognize that something divine is at stake and we can be sure that we Jews will once again play a crucial role in dealing with this crisis.
So, what to do? Let me quote a colleague of mine, Rabbi Moss from Australia: ‘Close your eyes and feel the uncertainty and make peace with it. Embrace your cluelessness. Because in all confusion there is one thing you know for sure: you are in the hands of God.’
And let us not forget: once this trial is behind us and almost all of us will have escaped in good health, the greatest challenge will still await us. Will we fall back into our old ways, or will we be transformed and live a life of spiritual grandeur?”