In yesterday’s blog post, I gave stupid baseless rumors, wicked conspiracy theories, and false prophets pasting G^d’s Name on their own angry hobby horses, mostly against the Jews, to maliciously “explain” the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Is it possible to give some rather real reasons for it?
I will not make mention of all attempts to find a ‘silver lining’ to this tragedy. Trying to see the full half of the glass is a worthy endeavor but outside of our scope. Especially because there has been great widely reported success in the search for the good that comes with this bad.
May I remark that if you can believe that one tiny virus (well, actually, a few million of them) can make the whole world get stuck, then maybe you can also believe that one tiny (chance?) discovery could get us all unstuck.
Escaped From a Chinese Science Lab or Jumped From an Animal?
The first theory was that the Chinese were working on creating this virus for warfare and now let it loose. It is true that a pandemic is easier fought in a dictatorship where you can shoot anyone violating curfew and that the West was caught completely off guard. But this plot is contrived. Why?
You can make up that China spread the virus to collapse the world economy, particularly that of the United States, so it can establish itself as the sole world power.
On the other hand, in China, the government disseminated the claim that the United States had created the virus in its military labs to damage the Chinese economy à la Trump’s trade war.
But this virus was not known to infect people or jump from person to person, so that makes no sense. Maximally, it was suspect because it biochemically looked like the SARS-virus.
To claim that no one would develop a virus to kill people 70 and older is nonsense. That was not known before the outbreak; and also turns out not completely true.
But if this was meant to be a weapon, then, of course, the Chinese would first make its own population or at least its army immune before using it. More likely, it would not use it but rather first threaten ‘the enemy’ with it.
Much more likely, they were studying it to prepare themselves for the possibility that another regime with discover it and threaten with it.
More plausible is that they were studying the virus for years already and now, it escaped. That they harvested it from bats that are a vector of it. It’s a natural virus and not constructed. The Chinese were very fast cracking the genetic code of the virus which could mean that they were studying it.
Another possibility is that it by surprise jumped on people who were eating anteaters that were infected by bats. Since the Chinese regime is not into power or information sharing, we might never know.
Again, just as with the SARS outbreak in 2002/3, at first, they ignored and denied it which made the spreading of the infection to get out of hand.
Religious Reasons Also Plausible for Atheists
Where it reads ‘G^d’ you may read ‘Nature’ or ‘History’ or ‘Humanity.’
More Self-Evident Non-Contrived Divine Reasons
A reason for G^d perpetrating this outbreak should be so obvious and self-evident that rejecting it looks contrived. It should have the ring of truth.
G^d did not decide to tolerate a dictatorial regime in China that would deny a viral outbreak until a pandemic was unstoppable. He did not make the US withdraw its epidemiologist from China. He did not make the US not have healthcare for many and no income for anyone who’s sick.
Don’t blame G^d for what we caused. As Maimonides says: Most pain people cause themselves. To paraphrase Andrew Yang: Let’s not just stop the pandemic. Let’s correct the problems that got us this in the first place.
There are still loads of people who deny and spread denial of our climate change heading toward being fatal for humanity. Is G^d not giving us here a hint of what a global emergency looks like? And if you have started early with prevention, you would now not sit with this disaster. Hint!
In light of all the bull, I have great respect for a rabbi who implicitly admits having no idea why this pandemic happens and who wants to explore “our inclination to give explanations for terrible events and the religious value in resisting those temptations.”
Rabbi Herzl Hefter then suggests that G^d wants us to rely on Him only. Not on the false promise of technological society that we should and could control everything, not on how intensely and concentrated we are able to pray, and not even on His promise that He will protect us! Only on Him.
It is a well-known traditional Jewish approach to check our deeds when misfortune befell us, Heaven forbid. Could bad deeds of mine (look at yourself alone) have contributed and what can I do to undo them a bit and mend my ways? That’s not superstition; that’s taking responsibility for one’s own betterment. Perfect people don’t need to do this. (Hint.)
Let me mention that many said already that the corona prevention and treatment are clearly reminding us of the managing of Tzra’at (Numbers 12:14-15). This Biblical spiritual illness mainly comes from speaking evil. Makes one think if we give fighting slander and gossip enough priority.
This coronavirus certainly shows us humans our shame. We try to spread for millennia that you shouldn’t murder, that you should spread love and generosity. Yet, war, hunger, and selfishness are still rampant all over. Such a virus took a few months to spread world-wide getting to everyone.
I agree with Rabbi Francis Nataff’s suggestion that G^d could ‘be angry’ with us. If not, why would He allow for a plague? But I shiver at the fallacy to try to appease Him. One appeases idols, not the L^rd of the Universe!
We can see His Hand in that the most innocent together with the most pious are dying first, rabbinic leaders and the very frail. (What guilt do they have?) How do I know? G^d says so Himself in the Torah (Leviticus 10:3): “I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me, thus I will be honored before the entire people.” We also saw that in the Holocaust. WW II killed 50-70 million people but the Jews were specially singled out, among them 1.5 million children and whole Chassidic communities.
But G^d’s never ‘angry’ in the sense that He would ‘lose it.’ He only wants to awaken us. Don’t you know that every person and every life counts? Don’t you know that all humans are deeply interconnected? You still don’t know? You know that you all stem from one pair of people. You’re family!
This whole punishment stuff has nothing to do with Judaism. It’s classical old-time Christianity and Islam to see G^d as an angry irritable Being. When He expelled us from Paradise, He did make clothes for us! And now, The Sea of Galilee is almost full after sex years of dangerous droughts were followed by two very wet winters. God doesn’t make us suffer two crises at the same time. (That doesn’t mean that He is ‘angry’ at countries in Africa that now suffer at the same time a drought, war, grasshoppers, and now the coronavirus. He has a special eye on Israel always.)
Earthly armies and courts sometimes need to take hard measures whereby ‘collateral damage’ is inevitable. Yet, G^d never causes ‘collateral damage.’ That means that every damage caused by a disaster can tell us something about what G^d wants to see changed. You can’t say He isn’t been patient.
For 50 years, there is a discussion about ending world hunger. But it’s still not realized and almost all of the well-fed act as if they don’t care.
The Sages tell us (Mishnah Avot, Pirkey Avot 5:12d, based on Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:19) that autumn plagues develop when we steal food from the poor. Few in the West can truly claim innocence there.
G^d / Causality never forgets. Eventually, He evens the score. According to justice and truth, we stand no chance. We can only be saved by His Mercy.
When countless homosexual men, needles sharers, Haitians, and Africans were dying of AIDS, what did anyone care? This virus is the opposite: it attacks mainly people who are not sexually so active anymore, and crushes the West. Got the message? Looks like payback time to me.
You could also say that G^d or Nature puts us on our toes again now the fight against AIDS is won.
When the regime in China let a strategic famine kill millions, the world said nothing. The Chinese learned to eat anything that moved. And for 70 years, more than a billion Chinese sigh under a deep lack of democracy. China bloodily occupied Tibet and started genocide (erasing Tibetan culture and religion). The world did nothing. Now it became clear that the same is happening with millions of Chinese Muslims. But the Free World doesn’t lose sleep over it. Olympic Games are celebrated there and China is one of the respected 5 permanent members of its UN Security Council. So, the stage was set. One Chinese ate one animal that was infected with a new bat virus. It mutates easily. It learned to jump from human to human. The regime could claim nothing happened because there was no Free Press to out the truth. Then its spread became unstoppable, a pandemic.
For three years, American democracy let the leader of the Free World violate common decency, truth, and justice. This was not a freak political incident. The Land of the Free, Home of the Brave had no pay for sick days. Seventy million have no healthcare at all. Life’s cheap there. This reverse Robin Hood stole even more from the people to give to the super-wealthy. The majority of politicians pretended business as usual. No, they even celebrated the one trillion dollar tax cut extra debt. So, the stage was set. To show the whole world what a total failure the US and their president is, including his supporters. He misled the workers and small investors that he was good for their employment and moneys and therefore they should overlook all the rest. Now, the emperor is naked for all who watch TV.
Suddenly, the super-rich’s life is endangered by this homeless person with a small bug and no health insurance. Suddenly, spending on healthcare is possible and more urgent than spending it on the rich, army and war.
So, you really think that you can do ‘mercy killing’ on the old and the very sick? So, why do you run to save them when I give them a mean virus?
And which of the above causes has the best cards? Maybe surprisingly, the idea that makes the most innocent victims. We see it all the time that G^d gives out messages of Divine displeasure that hurt innocent people most.
How did he discredit Christianity and pave the way for the emergence of the State of Israel? By having 6 million innocent Jews be machine-gunned down and gassed like vermin. And if you wanted to say that that was a punishment for the secularization of Ashkenazi Jewry, please note that most victims were ultra-Orthodox pious Jews.
Israel was maligned by Europe for half a century about how bad it treated the local Muslims. Baseless slander, blaming the victim. Suddenly the Syrian civil war drove millions of refugees into Europe and now we see how well (not!) it deals with anti-Semitic Muslims. But the real victims are innocent Syrians and innocent working-class Europeans.
So, I guess that the idea fits best Western society totally abandoning the poor, the Haitians, the gay men who had anonymous sex, the drug injectors (Pence!) and now the roles are swapped. The rest gets the coronavirus, the people who are personal and shake hands and kiss, don’t have sex anymore (the elderly), execute gays (Iran), did not help anti-AIDS research until millions had died and gay men held violent demonstrations, etc. But the individuals who die are mostly innocent and pure.
You read all my suggestions? No self-serving baseless ideas to fortify my year-round mantras. The Rabbis of Old warn us against that. Do not make the Torah into a spade with which to dig (Avot 4:7). Meaning: Don’t use (and so degrade) the Torah as a mere tool to further your own goals.
His Mini House and Temple
Because of the house arrest, we are deprived of Jewish communal life, learning with others opposite of us (phone and Skype are not the same), and prayer services. On the latter point, I want to make a few comments.
Every year, on Tisha’ beAv, we say that we cannot know what we are missing. We were not there when the Temple was still standing. So, maybe, G^d wanted to give us a — temporary — idea. The Synagogue is called a miniature temple. How does it feel without?
I must say, it feels like the essence is missing. We pray at home, but there is no repetition of the main part, there is no reading from a Torah Scroll, no Amen sounds. It feels like a dressed-down prayer.
It is also possible that G^d wanted to let us know that we don’t appreciate a visit to His House enough. Sometimes we don’t go? I make you not go at all — let’s see if you miss it now.
Something to contemplate is that G^d often holds up a mirror to our own behavior. He then treats us the way we treat others. If we can’t form a minyan anymore, who did we reject from our shuls? Homosexuals.
This could also be a major hint that we have not had enough eye for the holiness of His Mini Temples:
● We are not allowed to chat in shul. It’s not a coffee shop.
● We should not kiss others (our kids). All our affection should go to Him.
● We should not sit with our legs crossed, stretched or yawn, dose off. This is a place to toil, not to relax.
● We must not talk, leave, learn Torah even during the repetition of the main standing prayer. If it bores you, you certainly don’t pay attention.
● You think that you do Me a favor to pray? I do you a favor to let you pray in My House. If you think it’s for Me, I tell you, I can live without you.
● We should always say Amein out-loud. It is not a prayer; it is a declaration. An absent or mumbled Amein looks like you disagree.
● There is no person who does not deserve your smile. Then why do you look like you hate everyone or look straight through them?
● It is such a privilege to be alive, a Jew, visit My Mini House. So why do you not smile all the time? It really looks like you don’t want to be there.
● Why did you rush through the prayers like a machinegun, even on Shabbat? You want to get it over with? Pray really. Pray at home.
● Why do you walk around in My Mini House as if it is yours? You’re not the B^ss. Go home where you can play the boss all you want. (Better not!)
● Who told you that it’s good enough not to choose to be alert. To have Judaism as a thoughtless habit, ritual, custom, tradition only? You don’t choose? Then I will — just stay in your own home and wake up.
● How dare you sing lullabies and give concerts in My House, instead of using music just to enhance prayers? Be entertained at home, not here.
● Or maybe it got high time to remind you that the synagogue is not a church. The center of Judaism is at home. You forgot? I’ll send you there.
● Difficult: You sit in the synagogue comparing and judging others for being too this or too that? You want to hate Jews — not in My House.
Hopefully, we’ll do a better job when we are welcomed back again. Then the challenge is not over — the test only then begins.
Let us pray extra for the health of those outside of Israel and Asia and those who never had the education to understand the danger and whose leaders misled them into a false sense of safety while the plague raced untested through their cities and communities. May they have extra protection and may a cure quickly be found, miraculously or scientifically.
Rabbi Steinsaltz wrote a special prayer on the coronavirus crisis:
Ruler of the world, Father of mercy, Master of Justice:
Have mercy and save Your children who dwell in Your world, which You created with the Attribute of Kindness.
Rescue them from an unseen enemy, ransom them from death, protect them from dread.
Send us Your light to brighten up the broken hearts of orphans, fathers and mothers, men and women who have lost their dearest ones.
Send a full recovery to the ill and the afflicted, those on respirators and in isolation; and give strength, might, and hope to Your people, Your land and Your world.
Ruler of the world, grant insight to the nations so that they will remove from their hearts the hatred of others at this time;
Send the light of Your wisdom into the hearts of those who believe falsehood; enlighten the minds of innocents who hear false reports;
Send a spirit of charity and justice into Your world; help people build and plant, assist those who are truly suffering;
Straighten the paths of the world.
Provide a full recovery for the sick of your people, the House of Israel, wherever they are, and for Your children all over the world.
Father of Mercy, who is faithful in His covenant, the time has come for You to send to Your world tidings of salvation and redemption
which will comfort all Your children and offer them
peace and blessings, light and joy.
Here are some thoughts for further reflection from Rabbi Steinsaltz:
1. We must all increase our Torah learning, to the best of our abilities.
2. We must intensify our service of God, which is the service of the heart, the service of prayer.
3. We must also increase acts of lovingkindness.
I wrote a prayer before I received the above — for whatever it’s worth:
Our Father, our King, our Shield, our Healer!
Please, have mercy on the world now so many lives are threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Even if we lack merit, please give all of us a chance to show that we can do better than we have been doing, especially regarding the socially weak.
Please, look at how many are selflessly giving others beyond any measure.
May Your healing come in the merit of all who only trust in You.
May we, Your People, be instrumental in stopping this plague really fast for the well-being of all.
May Your salvation come as swiftly as this pandemic spread.
Please, enable and protect the healthcare workers, the scientists, the politicians, and the religious leaders, to crown their efforts with success.
Please grant us to restore our mental health and our financial stability.
And please pray for the return of Jonathan and Esther Pollard. “The greatest friend Israel ever had in the White House” refuses to let them go.