I’ve always believed that the metaphor describing the Jewish people as “Am k’shei oref” not only marks us as a stubborn nation, but a resilient one. Despite challenges under which another nation might fall and disappear, we stand strong. We find ways to deal with difficult situations, and we are able to turn a bad situation into one that is both bearable and often even inspirational.
During the coronavirus crisis, minyanim have been shut down, no weddings or bar/bat mitzvot can take place with more than ten people, and even funerals are being limited to only three people. Families are separated – grandparents cannot visit their married children and grandchildren. We are all quarantined in our homes facing challenges we have never faced before.
During these very trying times, however, I have seen the resilience and ingenuity of our people to overcome the feelings of loneliness, boredom, and uncertainty that threatens our mental health. I have never been exposed before to so many on-line shiurim, along with videos poking fun at our situation. Famous singers are giving concerts on Zoom. The chesed, ingenuity, and resilience of our people is inspiring.
I love the shiurim that inspire us with ways to seek to learn from these challenging times and grow from the experience. Many charge us to look more closely into our lives and our behavior, and to perhaps make some changes. Perhaps we should devote more time to our families. Perhaps we should value and appreciate more the freedoms that we had before, or perhaps we should marvel more at the greatness of our Creator and that we, His children, are so limited and insignificant in the total picture of His universe. This is all good. It is always beneficial to look into ourselves and see how this frightening, challenging experience could make us better people.
The problem arises, however, when we start throwing the blame and guilt onto others. I have heard rabbis state in shiurim that the reason for this coronavirus plague is that Almighty G-d is not satisfied with our davening or our concentrating on the Torah reading and therefore He has banned us from His synagogues. I have heard shiurim that blame this plague on the fact that women are not practicing enough modesty or that their sheitels are too long. Some attribute this “magaifa” to the fact that we spend too much money going away for Pesach, or on weddings or a host of other things. The list is endless.
While I am not against – and even encourage – introspection during these challenging times, to hold anyone or group culpable is unconscionable. Let’s get something straight: Almighty G-d did not start this plague. Humankind did! If anything, Almighty G-d is weeping in Heaven, saying, “Look what my children have done to themselves!”
I know that we as Jews believe that we carry the guilt of the entire world on our shoulders, but to believe that an entire world would suffer because some Jews daven incorrectly, or don’t show the proper respect in shul, or spend too much money on s’machot or vacationing for Pesach, is bordering on lunacy. Introspection is good! Teshuva is good! But to blame anyone is downright sinful. Only G-d judges people. We don’t have that right.
I believe that our people are wonderful. Yes, we have our challenges. Yes, some of our people embarrass us, but this does not give us the right to blame these faults on our entire nation. Those who cast the blame are the ones who really need to do teshuva.
We are a special nation. We have survived thousands of years of persecution and challenges. We are unique with so much goodness, so much that we have given and continue to give to every society of which we are a part. To look inward and evaluate our own actions is good; to judge our nation for the shortcomings of some members of our society, however, is sinful.
Let us continue to find strength and hope in our faith and confidence in our nation, and together we will weather this storm and face a bright and glorious future together.