The Sages of the Talmud teach that everything which comes to pass in the world is under the direction of the Master of Heaven and Earth, and that everything is controlled by His Providence, save regarding the matter of man’s free will. “Everything is in the Hands of Heaven, except the fear and reverence of God.” The Almighty has given mankind the privilege of deciding whether to follow God’s will for existence, as set forth in the Torah, or whether to follow his own desires and personal opinions and beliefs. Thus, when a person sets off to the grocery store to buy something to cook for dinner, his or her visit to the grocery store has been orchestrated by the Almighty. But if the person decides to steal something in the grocery store, then that is the person’s doing alone.
Which brings us to the coronavirus epidemic. If the path of a leaf that falls from a tree is guided by the Creator of Heaven and Earth, as the Sages of the Talmud maintain, then certainly a catastrophe of such international magnitude as the coronavirus, which has affected almost every corner and cranny of the globe, is also an act of G-d – and not a freak accident of Nature, as many claim. Admittedly, the virus may have started as a bacterial aberration of some sort, or via the machinations of some evil conspiracy, but these also derive from God, working incognito behind the curtains of Nature and history, in order to bring about the next stage in what some people call “Tikun Olam” and others call “Redemption.”
The Sages of the Jerusalem Talmud compare the Redemption of Israel (and of the world) to a dawning sunrise whose light spreads gradually, slowly, slowly, “a little at a time,” over the mountains, until the sun’s full, magnificent appearance in the sky. While many people are accustomed to think that God’s intervention in the world came to end with the Exodus from Egypt, and the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, Rabbi Kook asserts that the Exodus was merely, “the springtime of existence,” the beginning of a process of Redemption spanning the history of mankind. For example, World War One, he insisted, was another stage of this process, which brought, in the wake of the Balfour Proclamation, the scattered Jewish Nation closer to the Divinely-promised and prophesized ingathering of the exiles. Accordingly, World War Two was another apocalyptic stage of this Divine Process, bringing the uprooted Jewish People back to Israel en masse. In a similar fashion, during the Six Day War, the Old City of Jerusalem was recaptured and the Biblical heartland of the Promised Land returned to Israel’s control.
To what new phase will the global-wide pandemic of the coronavirus bring the Jewish People along our path to complete Redemption when the nations of the world shall flock to the newly reopened Ben Gurion Airport and ascend to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to learn the teachings of the God of Yaacov? (Isaiah, 2:3). Once upon a time, the Bible was the most read book in the world. Not so long ago, the Bible could be found in the bedside drawer of hotel rooms, before God either closed the hotels, or turned them into Corona recovery facilities to handle the overflow. Here are a few reminders of His promise that a better world would come:
“God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that he should change His mind; has He said and he shall not perform, and has spoken and shall not make it good?” (Numbers, 23:19).
“The Eternal One of Israel will not lie nor change His mind,” (Samuel, 15:29).
“For He spoke and it came to pass; He commanded and it stood fast,” (Psalms, 33:9).
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it,” (Isaiah, 55:11).
“‘I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for Me to bring it to pass. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Lord God,” Ezekiel, 24:14).
There is, of course, the naïve believe fostered by many government leaders throughout the world that the virus will be controlled, and life we return to its former course, sans change. In contrast, there are many voices, not only amongst Orthodox Jews and proponents of Mashiach, but in the secular world as well, expressed in articles on the front page of The New York Times, written by economists, scientists, and op-eders of all sorts, that the world will never be the same. From a religious point-of-view, it certainly seems unlikely that God brought the suffering of Corona upon us merely to return everything in the end to business-as-usual. Corona, which means crown, has obviously come to awaken mankind from its over-preoccupation with the very material world we inhabit, and with our over-focus on ourselves. The Divine Visitation of the Corona-King has theologically come to inspire mankind to pay more attention to the true wearing of the crown, the King of all kings, and to remind us of His laws and guidelines for the human race, which He proclaimed to the Israelite Nation at Sinai. Truly, the widespread recognition of God as King, as widespread as the virus itself, would be a great leap forward in the long and continuing process of Redemption.
I wrote an op-ed to The New York Times with the suggestion that in addition to the current preoccupation with respirators and Corona tests, people start to pay more attention to God, but the editors didn’t print it. Not because the essay wasn’t written well. Apparently they felt the subject wasn’t fit to print. Maybe, if all of the world’s herculean efforts to defeat Corona come to naught, maybe then The New York Times will consider publicizing my letter.
Sovlenut. Patience. Slowly, slowly. A little understanding at a time. One thing is certain, as the Torah and the Prophets of Israel assure us, again and again – the Redemption will come.