Standing at Mount Corona

In a new biography of David Ben Gurion author Tom Segev reports that as World War II began Ben Gurion “…now spent much time pondering history, internalizing it as personal experience and making it part of his perception of reality.”  In religious language we would say he fearlessly searched out the revelations that come with such a huge moment and incorporated those revelations into his very being.  I’m thinking that we have an opportunity to do the same with the coronavirus.  Maybe it’s a Mt. Sinai moment–or at least a possible small step forward to a new era, an era that perhaps could bring us closer to the messianic age of shalom that we all pray for.  What are the revelations that might come while standing at Mount Corona?  Here’s my tentative list:

  1. Never again take for granted the extraordinary gift of being together with family and friends and even strangers.  I live on one of Jerusalem’s most busy streets.  There’s nobody there! All this isolation made me fantasize the moment when we get the “all-clear”–when we  can go outside and hug one another.  Imagine the first hugs!  Or perhaps the “revelation” goes another way.  Could the message become–never again hug cavalierly–no more cheap hugs–no more loose hugging.  From now on a slight namaste bow.  More respectful.  More careful.  Keeps us in shape for any future virus.
  2.  At Mt. Corona we hear again something we keep forgetting–we are one world–one small, inter-connected, fragile vulnerable planet.  When we don’t hear this it makes it so easy to ignore or hate the “other.”  That makes it easier to kill and make war.  Can we hear a demanding voice–no more killing, no more war.  Thou shalt work together as one.  Coronavirus forces us to look beyond borders.  We need the help of scientists from all over the world. We need to know–how did the Chinese slow it down?  Why did the  Japanese focus on clusters?  Where did Italy make mistakes?  What are the best practices out there that we must immediately learn?
  3. We stand guilty at Mt. Corona.  We have used our wealth for stupid things.  The whole world consumes and consumes and then resents it when we hear that we are a consumerist society that is destroying this lovely planet.  I once met an American scientist who is among a handful of scientists trained to assemble an atomic bomb should an emergency demand it.  He was able to repeatedly get funding for ideas about building more powerful bombs.  When he tried to get funding for cancer research he was denied.  We must use our wealth to heal, to fend for life.
  4. We are so in need of a shut down once a week.  As the song goes, “The whole world is waiting to sing a song of Shabbat.”  This total shutting down, this enforced sabbatical we are experiencing, is a reminder that if you don’t practice shutting down or at least a slowdown, the world will find a way to make it happen.  But there is also the issue of what we do with Shabbat.  It should be a true renewal of love, of lessening of hate, of getting clear about what is important and not important.  From Mt. Corona comes the message–may your prayers and study and festive meals point you in the direction of memory and appreciation.  Memory of what was learned at Mt. Corona.  Appreciation of the freedom to learn, to grow, and to celebrate this precious gift of life.
  5. A warning comes out from Mt. Corona–pay attention!  A friend of mine reported that his daughter has a roommate who should be in quarantine.  The roommate is totally ignoring the quarantine.  She is ignoring the instructions of our Ministry of Health.  The warning from the mountain claims: do not ignore the world.  There are moments when you must face truth, you must respond to reality.  Don’t hide when unpleasant facts emerge.  We are asked to know and not to run away.
About the Author
Bill Berk was born in California and graduated college from the University of California, Berkeley. He attended rabbinical school (HUC) and served congregations in Palo Alto and Phoenix. Bill made aliyah in 2006, and worked at the Hartman Institute running their educational programs for rabbis. He has worked at Keshet and Makor in the field of educational travel.
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