Photo Credit: Jernej Furman via Flickr

It seems that the experts guiding the Republicans and then the Democrats have been wrong at every twist and turn of the ponderous pandemic that clouds our lives (and worse), from when they originally assured us that Covid would be just like the flu; the lockdown would just be for a couple of weeks to flatten the curve; masks won’t be necessary; masks WILL be necessary; mandates won’t be imposed; they WILL be imposed; the Democrats had a plan to solve the problem; now they say there is no federal solution; the vaccine would solve the problem; now the second one will not solve the problem, nor the third, nor necessarily even the fourth. Maybe eventually we will need to take an anti-Covid pill every morning with our coffee. (Hopefully, the scientists will eventually reach a consensus on a better alternative.)

Our scientists and our politicians of both parties seem like the blind leading the blind.

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Which leads us to the Daf Yomi, the daily page of the Talmud studied simultaneously by Jews on every meridian of the globe, that can always be counted on to give us good advice, whether we are Republicans or Democrats – or fed up by both parties.

In the Daf Yomi being read the day this issue of The Jewish Press is available online (Megilla 24), Rav Yossi discusses a person who is literally blind. He notes that he (Rav Yossi) was always bothered by a verse in the Tochacha, “You will grope at noontime as a blind man gropes in the darkness” (Dvarim 28:29). Doesn’t a blind person grope in the daytime the same way as at night? So why specify “as a blind man gropes in the darkness”? (From the context, it seems to mean “at night.”) Rav Yossi then proceeds to say that he finally got an epiphany about this when he saw a blind man carrying a torch in the absolute darkness of the night.

“Why, my son,” Rav Yossi asked, “do you need this torch if you are blind? It can’t help you to see anyway.” To which the blind person responded that this may be true, but “as long as I have a torch in my hand, people see me and save me from the pits and the thorns and the thistles.” So, the Talmud concluded, even a blind person derives at least an indirect benefit from the light, and therefore may recite the blessing over the heavenly luminaries.

During the pandemic, it seems that the scientists, the politicians, the pundits and the potential victims are all like blind people walking, stumbling, and groping in the dark, day and night. But what gives us hope is that we can help each other, whether we are carriers or not, whether we had the virus or not, whether we are vaccinated or not, by keeping our distance from each other, by performing activities remotely (if there is even a remote chance that we will reduce the spread thereby), by wearing masks, and by taking all the other appropriate measures. We are in a better position than the blind person who had to rely on others to protect him. We have the supremely good feeling of knowing that we are helping each other. The mask we wear may be protecting ourselves, but it may also be protecting every stranger we encounter.

What a wonderful feeling we have to know that despite the terrible pandemic that is spreading even more easily and rapidly than ever before, we have an opportunity to help each other and to be helped every time we breathe into a mask and smile warmly and privately in appreciation of every stranger who does the same.

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Rabbi Aaron I. Reichelm esq., has written, edited, or supplemented various books, most notably about rabbis and community leaders in his family. But one of his most enduring memories is hearing that his grandmother who he remembers as always being in a wheelchair consistently said that her favorite English song was “Count your blessings.”