Coronavirus – the moral aspect

Warning outside medical centre in Sydney due to outbreak of coronavirus (Source: Wiki Commons)

Job spoke for all of us when he said, “You see a calamity and are afraid” (Job 6:21).

We all see a calamity unfolding before us and we are all afraid. Some call it an epidemic, others a pandemic. It is a panic-demic.

The travel industry is collapsing, schools and universities are closing, there are ghost towns everywhere, life is in lockdown.

The first instinct of some people is to find a scapegoat. Iran is characteristically blaming it on America. Westerners think Asiatics are the ones who are guilty. What ridiculous prejudices!

Those who prefer Biblical thinking recall that scriptural texts constantly link suffering with sin.

It must be God punishing a sinful generation! That was the approach of Job’s friends: “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your iniquities without end?” (Job 22:5).

That’s God’s policemen speaking – and their thinking is skewed.

Why the virus started is a complicated issue. There are many constellations behind the history of COVID-19. Even climatic factors might be involved since this is all happening in a between-seasons period. We can’t cast blame unless we have the information to back it up and even then we have to recognize that it is not a mere academic issue; real people are suffering real pain. Facile stereotypes won’t make anyone feel better.

What we need is a response.

Here are six things to do:

  • The first thing can be framed in Biblical language – venishmar’tem me’ód lenafshotechem, “Look after your life carefully” (Deut. 4:15). Follow the advice of the experts even if it means not kissing the mezuzah and not shaking hands. If you need to be quarantined, endure it stoically and keep away from crowds, not only at sport matches but maybe even in shule.
  • Support and appreciate the medical profession. Not only in the medical research and development areas. They are in every sense a real line of defense against the enemies that assail every human being’s body and mind.
  • Don’t put up with fake information that blames the ordinary individual or groups of them even though they have different looks and likes.
  • Pray that God’s wisdom will guide those who seek ways to contain and control the transmission of the virus, and that His Providence will protect His world and its inhabitants. Psalm 91 is a good prayer to say.
  • Accept a pastoral responsibility for those who are suffering, and their families.
  • Mold societies in which love, loyalty, support and helpfulness will be the guiding notes, helping the world towards ethical climate change.
About the Author
Rabbi Raymond Apple was for many years Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesman on Jewish religious issues. After serving congregations in London, Rabbi Apple was chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, for 32 years. He also held many public roles, particularly in the fields of chaplaincy, interfaith dialogue and Freemasonry, and is the recipient of several national and civic honours. Now retired, he lives in Jerusalem.
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