How To Religiously Respond to the Pandemic
So many others wrote about THE correct way to respond to the CoVID-19 pandemic, how could someone like myself — Micha Shmuel — named for not one but TWO nevi’im not join the fray with my opinion?
I think that identifying causality of the kind so many suggest, “Hashem brought this because …” is impossible for us. Read Hashem’s words at the end of Iyov. It’s beyond us to figure it out, and the hubris of trying angers Him. Never mind thinking we succeeded. Look at the opening snippet (38:1-5):
וַיַּֽעַן־יְהוָ֣ה אֶת־אִ֭יּוֹב מנ הסערה [מִ֥ן ׀ הַסְּעָרָ֗ה] וַיֹּאמַֽר׃ מִ֤י זֶ֨ה ׀ מַחְשִׁ֖יךְ עֵצָ֥ה בְמִלִּ֗ין בְּֽלִי־דָֽעַת׃ אֱזָר־נָ֣א כְגֶ֣בֶר חֲלָצֶ֑יךָ וְ֝אֶשְׁאָלְךָ֗ וְהוֹדִיעֵֽנִי׃ אֵיפֹ֣ה הָ֭יִיתָ בְּיָסְדִי־אָ֑רֶץ הַ֝גֵּ֗ד אִם־יָדַ֥עְתָּ בִינָֽה׃ מִי־שָׂ֣ם מְ֭מַדֶּיהָ כִּ֣י תֵדָ֑ע א֤וֹ מִֽי־נָטָ֖ה עָלֶ֣יהָ קָּֽו׃ …
Then Hashem replied to Iyov from the tempest and said: Who is this who darkens counsel, Speaking without knowledge? Gird your loins like a man; I will ask and you will inform Me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Speak if you have understanding. Do you know who fixed its dimensions Or who measured its diameter? …
Chazal presumed we had a firm grounding in Tanakh before moving on to their works. So, it is safe to assume that where it looks like they are violating the thesis of a book of Tanakh, they’re not.
So, I take Chazal (and the Rambam) as demanding we take lessons from what happens to us. Whether or not we find THE cause. What did the pandemic and current lifestyle bring up for you? The thing you are already motivated about is the ideal thing to be working on.
For R Aharon Lopiansky (watch here), and he assumes this is quite common / typical, the thing that has us all in a tizzy is the fact that the news changes faster than we can get a handle on it. We feel out of control, and we are in a society that has gotten used to successfully engineering control — from tech to getting insurance to cap our loses.
An idolater goes and gets himself a god he can appease. It gives him control. But Hashem’s presence is always within a cloud. We don’t know what’s going on. We need bitachon to manage, because we are not in control.
And therefore, RAL suggests, this need for find a segulah to make everything all better is itself the exact opposite of the experience should be teaching us.
As for my own experience, one of the things the whole situation drove home was how one person infects two or three, and they, 6 or 7… So to me the realization of social interaction, rechilus, or just plain spreading negativity, was driven home more than feelings of loss of control. (And there is a project doing that, as well: Stop the Spread.)
But whatever it is you are naturally moved by in all this, and if nothing comes on its own, what you hear that resonated. Those responsible for their community’s spirituality (typically a rav, rosh yeshiva, rebbe or for one definition of “community”, a parent) should view their need to provide guidance in those terms — in my humble opinion.