The coronavirus crisis caught us all by surprise. The death toll – along with the massive damage to the economy, unemployment, isolation, quarantine, and our inability to know when and how this will end – puts us all in a position of total uncertainty.
Why do we suffer so much from uncertainty? Why are question marks so scary? The answer is simple. One of our basic psychological needs is a sense of safety and security. Home, family, career, business, savings, and future plans give us a sense of safety.
But it’s an illusion. In one moment everything can go awry. True personal freedom lies in the ability to feel safe and secure in a place of uncertainty, to feel resilient when we are vulnerable and exposed, and to experience power when we have no control whatsoever over our circumstances.
This lesson lays at the heart of Yetziat Mitzraim and the narrative of Jewish freedom. Egyptian culture was a culture of safety – the pyramids, the Nile, the undefeated empire. However, it was just an illusion. Plague by plague, G-d disintegrated Egypt’s security walls.
Yetziat Mitzraim is the courage to go toward a desert of uncertainty. The desert has nothing to offer – no water, no shelter, no jobs, no savings, no investments. Even the manna that descended from heaven every day for Bnei Yisrael melted at the end of the day and could not be stored for the next day. But that’s true freedom – the ability to lean fearlessly into uncertainty for a long while and to feel comfort and security precisely in the landscape of question marks.
There is redemption in experiencing uncertainty. It’s an opportunity to embrace our vulnerability and realize there is something much bigger than us. It’s an opportunity to discover that the real sense of safety comes from the divine side of us and our engagement with it. “Let go and let G-d!”
The coronavirus crisis holds a mirror to humanity and reminds us how vulnerable we are and how a tiny virus we cannot see can drive the entire world insane. But it’s also an opportunity for freedom and liberation.
To quote from one of my favorite contemporary authors, Brene Brown: “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty… We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of ‘faith’! The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”
The only certainty we have in life is G-d. Hashem is here behind the scenes. All other elements that provide a sense of safety and certainty are illusions. The essence of Avraham’s faith was his courage to leave his home and assets behind, to have faith in G-d, and thus to walk into the uncertain – lech lecha. Moshe Rabbenu led Bnei Yisrael into the unknown, by presenting them with the only source of certainty – the revelation of Hashem.
That’s the secret of the Jewish people’s survival – the courage to go on a journey of uncertainty with full faith in Hashem.
With the help of God, we will all emerge from this crisis, stronger, more resilient, and – most importantly – more open to the truth of our vulnerabilities and the benefits of our feelings of uncertainty.