by Rabbi Nussbaum
VOLUME 95 NUMBER 1
March 27, 2020
Nissan 2, 5780
Candlelighting Time 7:01 PM
For many of us, we are living in strange and difficult times. After all, until very recently we were the beneficiaries of the greatest economic boon that has taken place in modern times. Unemployment was at a record low. We were soaring! And then, COVID-19 got in our way, how inconvenient. Who invited him in and how did he get here? Perhaps we can put the pieces together and try to figure out what’s going on.
At the beginning of the parsha, Moshe asserts to the nation that his entire prominence and ability to relate to Hashem and be our representative is only due to His desire to benefit the Jewish people. When that merit was no longer viable, in other words, we lost that merit due to the sin of the spies, then Hashem did not speak to Moshe for 38 years, until the last of that generation died. For 38 long years we felt abandoned by Hashem through the ignominious sin of the spies. Although we had the Mishkan and it was fully functional, nonetheless the ultimate measure of our closeness to Hashem, that Moshe should receive direct commands from him, was dashed and eliminated. What caused that calamity that led to this eventual decline?
Briefly stated, the spies conspired to ignore Hashem’s promise to give the Land of Israel to His nation and falsely reported about the situation there in order to create pandemonium among the people and therefore they would refuse to go. And unfortunately, they were highly successful and they did not go. They died in the desert and their children made it in to Eretz Yisrael. They forsook Him and His message, the response, was immediate and harsh, I will abandon you as well! In his seminal book, Duties of the Hearts, Rabbeinu Bachya states once a person decides to place his trust and faith in other resources, besides Hashem, then the automatic reply is that you are now on your own path, best of luck. And he cites several verses from the prophets and King David that confirm this.
Let’s examine what we are experiencing and try to connect the dots. We have become increasingly fragmented and disassociated from each other. No longer can we simply knock on our neighbor’s door and drop by for a friendly visit. We can’t even shake hands anymore for fear that we may transmit the virus or contract it. Our shuls and study halls are empty and we shudder each time that we hear of yet another person who has been diagnosed with the virus. Why has this become our lot?
Have we shown the proper respect for our shuls and displayed the appropriate decorum when we are there? Do we speak during davening, do we come on time to daven? Are we focused on davening or is our desire to just get going as soon as we can? Are we sincerely interested in the welfare of our friends and neighbors or is it only lip service that we are attending to? Perhaps these questions are too direct or maybe they are on target and we need to reassess our priorities? Eventually COVID-19 will probably run its course but we will finish the course successfully or are we going to need a COVID-20, Heaven forbid, to further drive home the message?
We are on the threshold of the Yom Tov of Pesach, that time of the year when we dream of our future salvation from our long and bitter exile. Rabbeinu Bachya, the grandson of the author of the Duties of the Hearts, writes in his explanation of parshas Shemos that when the future redemption comes it will be amid tremendous travail and at that point we should await his arrival. Who knows if we are presently witnessing this historical event? Are we using this opportunity to rectify our mission here or are we simply investigating the latest statistics and medical advances that are taking place to stop the virus? We have many choices in life, let’s utilize this challenge to create a new bright future for our nation that we can perhaps now greet Moshiach soon!
A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
The Torah allows us to coerce someone who has an obligation to bring a sacrifice to fulfill his duty. The upshot is that when a person truly desires to subject himself to Hashem’s domination, then that inclination will become realized! S’FAS EMES