Like most days, I asked a question on Facebook this past week. This one however, relating to the coronavirus, was rhetorical. I asked: “Is there really anybody who is saying right now, "I can't understand why God would do this to us because we were so well behaved?" We have lost our way my friends, lost our souls, become high and mighty, turned ourselves into gods—selfish and heartless ones at that--created our own morality and conveniently altered G-d’s Will like a custom made suit that fits to a T. But we who just last month thought we were gods in our respective microcosms and fiefdoms, who would command Alexas and Siris and Amazon to give us what we want, who lavished in a life of plenty manufactured in China, that same “we” has been brought to its knees. And our custom-made lives are popping at the seams. We would not humble before the invisible G-d, so now we kneel before the invisible virus. Unlike us, this invisible virus does not discriminate, it hates Democrats and Republicans, it hates the unknown and the famous, it hates Jews, Muslims and Catholics, it hates the rich and the poor, it hates democratic countries and it hates tyrannical ones. And in its universal hate, it has reminded mankind that we are one and G-d is one. Some, in stubbornness, will still blame the Chinese; they played their part. But the Talmud teaches that not one blade of grass grows in this world without Divine supervision, so much more a virus that pretty much has overnight changed the world as we know it, perhaps irreversibly. Now each of us, like a punished school child, is sequestered to his corner, to shelter in place and to think about our behavior. Perhaps it’s time again to pull out our ruled notebooks as in years gone by and write a thousand times. “I’m sorry for what I did,” I’m sorry for what I did,” etc.
In this week’s Torah reading, God “calls” Moses, and once again it was to assume a momentous duty. So important is his new duty that the book of Leviticus is titled Vayikra, which in Hebrew means, “He called.” God “called” Moses to instruct him how the Israelites should “say sorry” to atone for their sins. What a beautiful gift G-d gave mankind: forgiveness. But unlike cute modern-day catchphrases, such as “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” we indeed have to be sorry, say we are sorry and behave as if we are sorry.
The means to atone for sin was through animal sacrifices. More graphically, it involved slaughtering a living animal, cutting it into pieces and sprinkling blood, etc. And be sure, those who brought sacrifices were cognizant of one thing: that the animal before them was dying in their stead. God takes “sorry” very seriously. Yes, Moses got the “call,” but we have dropped the “ball.”
Today we have no Temple and therefore no more animal sacrifices can atone for our sins. Today, what stands between us and the dispatched Angel of Death is the Torah: Penitence, prayer and charity can avert the evil decree. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Friends, I know a lot of fancy words, but I can best summarize by saying mankind has become low. Even those who teach G-ds’ laws in every religion, many are liars, cheaters, panderers who became too business oriented instead of soul saviors. The secular have become too open-minded, too accepting of moral decay. We’ve been bumping off each other in close proximity in an “everything goes” mindset and have brought out the worst in each other. Politicians who are elected to lead are instead ready to ruin their countries for greed and internecine hatred. G-d had enough. Now we are isolated with only G-d to keep us company. We have no more audience to see our clothes, our cars, our jewelry, our manicures. It seems karmic that China, which has manufactured our phony lives, has also manufactured our death. We are all in hiding with only who we really are as our company. If the power goes out, taking Wifi and Netflix with it, what will be left of you? Can you stand yourself?
When a person dies, in the Jewish faith we say, “Shehalach lolamo,” meaning the deceased went unto his world. Why “his” world? Because in the afterlife we go to the world we’ve created for ourselves. The time to change is now!!! I pray G-d will forgive us and this plague will disappear as quickly as it came. But friends, while we are already “figuratively” on our knees, I do believe it’s time to say, "G-d we are so, so sorry. Please let us out of solitary confinement and we promise the next time we won’t do it again." In the meantime, a vibrant rainbow has appeared in my window; it’s time to build my ark.