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Judaism/Religion on the Corona Crisis- Why??


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Adar 23, 5780
I wanted to ask if you have an opinion on the whole corona situation in terms of what Hashem could be hinting to us? Do you think there’s an underlying reason to what’s happening right now? And if so, I feel like it’s forcing us to have a sort of backwards reaction by having to leave Israel of all places, as well as cut off our learning in yeshiva, to go back to America without the access and resources that yeshiva has to offer.
We obviously don't know all of Hashem's "strategy" but in general, in the end, everything is for the best! Also, every benefit that can possibly be, was surely "part" of the "intention", for Hashem foresees all possible outcomes and factors. We don't know how this will end, but in the end, what it means to us and what we do with it, is to a certain extent, in our control. This would include, for example: 1. Sometimes it's important just to leave our routine, in order to reappraise and analyze our priorities and habits in daily life. Many people are so busy with their daily lives, they usually don't spend enough time contemplating the goal, what life is really about. What are my priorities and ideals? What do I really want out of life, and how to go about achieving and practically realizing those goals? 2. This is also a wake-up call to reassess the exaggerated culture of shopping malls, and entertainment (movies, theaters, coffee shops and restaurants), not to mention the fixation on vacationing and traveling abroad, that society has probably gone too far on these non-necessities. 3. Modern man often forgets that Hashem runs the world, and sometimes there's almost nothing man can do but to turn towards Heaven, "מאין יבוא עזרי? עזרי מעם ה'!". It clearly helps our humility, emuna and kavana in tfila, hopefully strengthening our tshuva and tzedaka, as well. 4. On an international and universal level, I don't remember such achdut, unity and cooperation in the world (aside from uniting against Israel…), as in this fight against Corona. 5. Similarly, after such bickering and arguing in 3 national elections in Israel, and being an entire year without a government or national budget, it's davka good to have some unity here! We haven't been able to form a national unity government yet, but maybe this can help our leaders understand this necessity. 6. In addition, I understand that the government which is the greatest enemy of Israel today, Iran, has been basically immobilized from Corona which has invaded their upper echelons and is preoccupying them, rather than planning how to "nuke" us… 7. Every small act to watch our health is a mitzvah d'oraita of "ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם"! 8. Many students and lay-people who are "locked-in" are discovering the wonders of the accessibility of Torah study thru the web. As for us rabbis, who haven't had time to video and record important she'urim, we now have no choice but to do so, and teach not only the yeshivot and midrashot, but to avail Torah more to the masses (and yeshiva graduates)! 9. Most people don't have as much free time to learn Torah as they would like, but now they do! 10. Many, especially men, have difficulty davening with kavana bc of the quick-pace of tfila b'tzibur in most shuls. Nowadays, everyone can take as long as they like, and daven however they have most kavana (and BH, we managed to fit in Parshat Zachor and Kriyat HaMegilla before the real crisis). 11. Many modern families and couples are so busy, they usually don't spend enough quality time together, just talking, enjoying each other's company, but now they definitely can! 12. Obviously, having the family cramped in close quarters can also be challenging to not get on each-other's nerves, and this may also be part of this midot "seminar", to practice our patience with our loved ones! 13. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", and we sometimes benefit "b'dieved", from a separation which we definitely would not have initiated. This could be regarding appreciating our communities and true friendships (not just superficial "chats") which we often take for granted, until we are forced apart. Similarly, perhaps having to leave Israel while at your "spiritual height", will help you clarify the difference between Israel and America, and just strengthen your resolve that much more to make it back here, as part of your long-term plans! 14. On a communal and national level, Am Yisrael davka unites best and are most altruistic at times of crisis. The chessed going on to help neighbors, the elderly, those with special needs etc., are really multiplying much more than on a regular basis. To a large extent, much of the worry is davka in caring for the elderly, which western society don't always do enough. People in general are nicer, less hurried and more patient with each-other. 15. Religiously, even less buses and taxis on Shabbat than usual, and it's hard to remember a period when Negiah was so carefully observed. 16. Even home exercising ("חילוץ עצמות") has benefited, where we have no choice but to figure how to stay in shape, in our own homes. 17. Many people abroad are working from home, and they and their companies, through discovering this possibility, realize that aliya, and working online from Israel, is a very realsitic and viable option! We must take advantage of all challenges in life, especially those which are extreme or out of the ordinary, to grow. We must make a sincere effort so that hopefully all of these improvements will also continue afterwards- and, as Rav Kook writes, these positive habit changes should be our own personal "Exodus" freedom, this Pesach and forever on! In short, "גם זו לטובה", all is for the best. (Also, we see how complex it is to run the world, and how many people, topics and factors are affected!!) With Love of Israel! Rav Ari Shvat (Chwat)
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