The Lessons of a Plague

A well known Rabbi in Israel recently said that the crisis derived from the Corona virus would pass when people learn its lessons. Yet, he didn’t elaborate on such “lessons”, as if he would let everyone to figure them out. As an observant Jew, my first thoughts about this Rabbi’s admonition took me to the Ten Plagues of Egypt, and their impacts as the prelude of the people of Israel’s Exodus from that land. These had their inner and outer effects according to the Jewish people’s nefarious circumstances under a kind of slavery without precedent.

If the Rabbi’s words had any connection with that pivotal moment in Jewish history, I should inquire about what are the current circumstances that may relate to the Corona virus pandemic. Particularly, about the measures globally taken to prevent or mitigate its effects or dying from the virus. These are generally identify as fever, cough, shortness of breath with difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache and loss of taste or smell.

In one way of another, most people have the same symptoms with the seasonal flu, except for the loss of taste and smell. So, in general, we all have probably experience those in an intense or less intense way, without thinking or pondering about the “lessons” we should learn or not from them. Still, the Rabbi’s words suggested we should.

Fever may invite to reflect on how obsessed one can become about that he lusts or desire that he is not able to get. Coughing as a compelling reaction to expel or remove something that obstructs the proper function of an organ of the body, as one should do with thoughts, feelings and emotions that negatively affect a well balanced consciousness.

Shortness of breath shows one’s inability to acquire the necessary vitality to move and act, like being deprived with the desired ability to live. Breathing easily is fundamental to feel alive. If one is not taking “in” what is essentially vital in life, sooner than later he will perish. The question here is, what one values as “essential” to be alive, besides breathing easily, eating, sleeping and being clothed under a roof. What one has become “shortened” to live is the point. Body or muscle aches can be translated as the excessive and unwanted pains one suffers by being “shortchanged” with the life he has, either by their wrong choices and decisions or not.

Headaches seem to appear as the effect of over thinking or obsessing about something one can’t get the way he wants. These may be an extreme physical reaction to unhealthy neurotic reactions, for not all of the latter are unhealthy. Mental or emotional discomfort do not necessarily have to be labeled as neurotic, when the minimal norms of decency and decor are broken and cause one’s spirited reaction.

Losing the sense of taste and smell is a hard way to learn how precious is the “taste of life” with its scents and fragrances we can call the good times to be gladly enjoyed when living the best way possible.

These reflections are about the symptoms of the Corona virus. Let’s now focus on the treatment or measures taken to cope with it.

Social isolation has been indicated as the way to “mitigate” (another term to say “avoiding” being infected), as well as “social distancing”. In an “inner” level, this is about avoiding getting infected from others who may be. By association, what we already said about the symptoms is what we are supposed to avoid from others. Yet, we are not holier than others to believe that we may become exempt from having negative thoughts, being obsessed, lusting, and feeling frustrated.

In this sense, the “isolation” and “distancing” are more a about us individually than others around. This is probably what the Rabbi may have meant to say. The lessons of this plague are about what one has to identify as the “symptoms” inside consciousness, in order to avoid them, correct them, and later procure to live the well balanced consciousness we mentioned above.

The case we also must consider is the “asymptomatic” that is not aware of what is going on in his consciousness and infect those around him. This one requires a much deeper reflection, for most of the hideous crimes committed in history were made by those who became totally insensitive about the preciousness of life, its diversity, its beauty, and above all, its goodness. Hence, “testing” them for the virus of evil is utmost necessary, so they may be isolated until the rest are not at risk to be harmed by their “hidden” symptoms.

In sum, the encompassing “lesson” of this plague is to frequently take some time in “isolation” and “distancing” ourselves from the threats of negative ideas, thoughts, emotions, feelings, speech and actions, either inside or around us. This may keep us “away” from harming ourselves and other as we interact with each other. In comparison with the Ten Plagues, let’s all hope that, as the Rabbi warned, we learn the lessons of this current plague so that we may avoid others that may force us even further to finally separate human consciousness from all forms and ways of evil, and approach life the way it deserves to be lived: only in goodness.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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