Open the World or Keep it Shut?
The big question on everyone’s lips this week is whether we’re ready to re-open the world or if it would be wiser to stay shuttered for longer.
On the one hand, we’ve been in isolation for six weeks already and the world’s economy has been virtually decimated. Millions of people are out of work and it’s extremely difficult (and sometimes dangerous) for people to remain isolated.
On the other hand, if things open up too quickly, the virus will likely have a resurgence putting many more lives at risk. And we know, saving a single life is akin to saving the entire world.
And so, the debate rages on. Economy or health? How and when can we reopen? Under which conditions? How can we stagger it? What else do we need to have in place?
The truth is, this question is not new or unique to our day and age. It’s one that is asked every time a child is born.
On the one hand, the soul would love to stay in Paradise, pure, untainted, enjoying it’s isolation with its Father in Heaven, where each second is infinitely more pleasurable than anything this world can offer.
But on the other hand, in order to make this world a better place, the soul needs to descend into the physical realm, enter a body, and start refining the world around it.
Unfortunately, doing so endangers the soul. It can become contaminated from all the falsehood that exists in this world. Every time a person lies, cheats, steals, deceives, violates Shabbat, or eats non-kosher food, more damage is done to the soul than any coronavirus can possibly inflict. The coronavirus only harms a person in this physical world; spiritual damage affects a person both in the current world, and in the World to Come.
Ultimately, the decision is made to send the soul into the world, and G-d empowers it to succeed, equipping it with the tools to combat the hurdles and overcome the temptations that it will inevitably encounter. The mind rules the heart; if we so desire, we can overcome temptation and perform only mitzvot.
In fact, it says as much in this week’s Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora. The Torah discusses a woman giving birth, referring to the soul desperately cleaving to G-d. We tell the soul, “We know how much you want to stay with G-d, but you can only fulfill your mission in the physical world. We need you here. It will be hard, but we’ll give you the tools you need. You cannot opt out. We need you too badly.”
And with this coronavirus, too, eventually we will need to re-open the world. It’s our mission. We cannot continue without it. But when we do, we will not only take the necessary physical precautions such as wearing masks and gloves and using Purell, but also the spiritual ones which will fortify us and enable us to fulfill our mission in this world!