Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students and Senior Lecturer at Diaspora Yeshiva, is not only a popular speaker and teacher, but also a dynamic thinker and writer. A student of Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky and Harav Gedalia Schorr, Rabbi Sprecher was granted smicha (rabbinical ordination) by Torah Vodaath Yeshiva. Prior to his current position, Rabbi Sprecher was a professor of Judaic studies at Touro College in New York. In addition to his duties at Diaspora Yeshiva, Rabbi Sprecher writes a regular column on various Judaic topics in the Jewish Press, and lectures regularly at the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem.
The Exodus Message for CORONA
Published: Monday, March 30, 2020 07:21:27 PM
Number of views: 367

L’ILUI NISHMAT ASHER SHMUEL CHAIM Z”L ben EPHRAIM v’TZIONA

What can the events leading up to the Exodus teach us about dealing with Coronavirus? Rav Soloveitchik posed the question on the verse in Parshat Shemot, “And G‑d saw the suffering of the children of Israel and He knew He must help them.” Rav Soloveitchik asks that if G‑d knew that He must help us, then why did He wait decades before redeeming Israel? Rav Soloveitchik answers that G‑d waited for Moshe, His human partner, who at the time was unprepared to accept the mission of redemption.

As King David teaches in Tehillim, “The Heavens belong to G‑d but the Earth was given to human beings.” G‑d acts only in concert with His earthly partners. Thus, only when Moshe was ready for his mission, he found G‑d waiting and calling to him at the Burning Bush!

That is our dilemma now in the year 2020 as we are being overwhelmed with the Coronavirus pandemic all over the world. The message for us is that just like Moshe, G‑d is waiting for us to be His partners to find a vaccine to stop the deadly plague. This spiraling out-of-control Coronavirus forces us to reflect on the existential realities and uncertainties of life. The sudden health catastrophe of the entire world awakens us from serenity and leads us to extreme hysteria. G‑d’s message is that despite our tremendous scientific and medical knowledge, we are not in control at all!

Rav Soloveitchik points out that the erratic nature of life and our susceptibility to seemingly random turns of events is all part of G‑d’s plan to teach us Who REALLY is in charge. He wrote that our occasional helplessness is not simply a tragic truth. “It is an ethical postulate that gives rise to modesty and humility in the human being. Instability serves to ennoble us, and to dispel arrogance. The awareness of our vulnerability, that there lurks a deadly threat which can transform our complacent condition, that suddenly without reason we can be cast down from the height of success to the pit of despair – should enhance our ethical character.”

People were convinced that modern scientific cures protect us from almost all diseases. Now we see the bitter truth. Thus the Mishna in Avot teaches “Be exceedingly humble and modest.” Perhaps the Coronavirus will convince us to act with more humility and modesty.

A good and ethical society depends on a system of restraints. That is the main feature of living a life lived according to Halacha. As the Mishna in Avot states, “Who is a hero? The one who is able to restrain and control his passions and impulses.”

How do we deal with our fears? One way is by taking action in our own personal environment. We CANNOT control what happens to us, but we CAN always control how we respond to it.

G‑d’s message to us now is to be humble, NOT helpless! As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov famously said, “The entire world is a narrow bridge and the main thing is not to be afraid at all.”

CORONA means CROWN. Now is the time to restore the Crown of Kingship to G‑d. As we are all praying now during this crisis, “Our Father, our King, we have no king, only You!”

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