Parshat Parah, March 14, 2020
In these trying times we pray for those who are unwell and ask people to use their common sense. Don’t panic but don’t be lackadaisical and if you feel under the weather or have symptoms including fever or coughing. Please be considerate to everyone else and remain at home. If you have a compromised immune system, it’s not the time to compromise on your health. Even for healthy people it doesn’t hurt to be extra vigilant and reduce unnecessary physical interaction with other people. It’s best to leave a seat between people in shul and stagger rows so you are not seated directly behind anyone. Many shuls, especially in New York and New Jersey have cancelled all activities and we will continue to assess our situation.
Purim 2020’s satirical headline: Jews in Persia enter into a coalition government with Haman. Yes, you read it correctly. An eyewitness reported that the s’mol party is in coalition talks with the rabid anti-Semitic party, the Hamanites. If this was written in the spirit of Purim, it may have been moderately humorous, although beyond imagination. No rational person could fathom that any political party would consider entering into a coalition with heinous criminals that are sworn to their destruction.
However, as I write this article (and I pray to God that it will never come to fruition) this unimaginable scenario is in the process of altering the political landscape in Israel. Blue and White and Yisrael Beiteinu, two of the anti-Netanyahu parties, are on the verge of joining forces with a nemesis of the Jewish people. They are negotiating with the Joint List of Arab Parties which includes the rabidly anti-Semitic group of Balad. Why? Perhaps their hatred of Netanyahu is far greater than their love of their country. Let’s assume for a moment that everything alleged about Benjamin Netanyahu is true and he deserves to go to jail. Let’s assume that he is a right wing fanatic and will never agree to make peace with the Palestinians. Perhaps he is unworthy to be the prime minister and spokesperson for the State of Israel. Even if all these assumptions are true, Benjamin Netanyahu loves Israel and loves the Jewish people. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Joint List and Balad. At best, they dislike the Jewish people and at worst, they desire the total destruction of a Jewish state.
Perhaps I’m misjudging their motives. Maybe their hatred of Netanyahu is secondary to their lust for power. Perhaps they, too, love Israel but it is their selfish desire that is clouding their moral compasses. Whatever the reality may be, it leaves me in a challenging situation. How can I continue to unashamedly support the State of Israel when I’m ashamed of that country? How will members of Tzahal fight for a country that is run by a government that would send them all to the International Criminal Court for prosecution?
However this issue ultimately plays out, it has given me insight into how human beings can act in a manner contrary to any rational thought. I could never understand how the Jews, immediately after leaving Egypt and witnessing miracle after miracle, could give up everything and begin worshiping a golden calf. How could individuals who just a few weeks earlier heard the voice of God uttering the Ten Commandments be fooled into believing that something made out of molten gold was actually a God? How could they abandon their heritage and pray to a molten piece of gold? It seems incredulous to even imagine anyone could act with such irrational contempt. I may never understand human nature. Sometimes adults act in a manner that is incongruous with reality. It happened three and half thousand years ago and is repeating itself today.
Nevertheless, I’m an optimist and believe that common sense will prevail. Just as in the days of yore when the worship of the golden calf was short lived, my hope is that if disaster strikes it will have a relatively short life span.
In addition, no, I won’t promote conspiracy theories. I won’t posit the theory that the Coronavirus is a punishment on Israel and the world because of Gantz and Lieberman or any other silly reasons that are making the rounds. Moreover, I don’t believe what the Iranian regime is promoting – that the Covid19 virus was secretly developed by the USA and Israel. What I do believe is that yeshuat Hashem k’heref ayin – which the salvation of God can come at any moment. It is indeed my hope and prayer that an immediate cure or vaccine will reduce the spread of the Coronavirus and the world will return to relative normalcy. In an election year that’s the best we could hope for. Additionally, I pray that two generally rational people will realize the error of their ways and do their utmost to facilitate that the State of Israel will always remain a State for Israelis.
Rabbi Jack Engel