Rabbis in Israel have been busy attempting to make spiritual sense of the coronavirus pandemic. Below are some of the messages they’ve gleaned from it.
In a shiur delivered in Jerusalem earlier this month, well-known lecturer Rabbi Mendel Kessin asked why China, Iran, and Italy have been hardest hit by the coronavirus. He suggested that China’s unethical economic practices brought about “a measure-for-measure retribution that G-d is doing.” Others have noted that China is also guilty of flagrant human rights violations and official state atheism.
Iran’s role as a leading supporter of world-wide terror is well-known. Rabbi Kessin noted, “The two greatest nations contributing to the instability of the world are Iran and China. China is filled with thievery. There comes a time when G-d says, ‘Enough is enough, and since we are before the Messianic era, I’ve got to clean up the place.’”
As for Italy: “I believe Italy is some type of punishment for Christianity. It’s not Italy per se. It’s Catholicism. What Rome has done to Jews…they’ve been killing Jews for 2,000 years,” he said.
Diminishment of Anti-Torah Behavior
In a shiur recorded in Tzfat last week, Rabbi Alon Anava, founder of the Be’er Miriam Learning Center in Tzfat, said the crashing of world economies is designed to break our dependence on materialism.
In a March 12 podcast, Rabbi Lazer Brody, an author and inspirational speaker, pointed out that the cancellation of public gatherings due to the coronavirus is putting an end to public desecrations of Shabbat. He also noted that, with disruptions in air travel, extravagant European vacations are coming to an end.
The Urgency Of Making Aliyah
In his parshah commentary on Ki Tisa, Rabbi Nachman Kahana, rabbi of the Chazon Yechezkel Synagogue in Jerusalem, referred to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic as “a shocking wake-up experience” for many Jews in the Diaspora. “The unthinkable has happened,” he wrote. “Jews in the galut believe that the doors of Israel will always be open to them…. However, the gates are now closed. There are almost no airlines that land here and whoever comes is placed in a 14-day quarantine.
“Corona will pass someday after taking its deathly toll. But the Jews in galut must beware not to forget the feeling of helplessness when they were not welcome to the Holy Land.”
The Essence Of The World Is Changing
Meanwhile, kabbalist Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto is predicting war in two months. Rav Pinto said, “We are on the way to ge’ulah – there will be a big financial crisis. The world is entering a period of time that is really not simple.”
Rav Pinto predicted that our dire situation will continue for months. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu is changing the essence of the world during this time, all the ways of the world – everything is going to change and is going to go in a different direction.”
In January, Shuvu Banim reported that Rav Pinto had a dream that foreshadowed the coronavirus. “There stands ready to be a big shock in the world, on the scale of the murder of Yitzchak Rabin, or September 11, on a very difficult scale, and difficult things that will happen to the enemies of Israel,” he proclaimed two months ago.
Emunah and Teshuvah
Rabbi Lazer Brody said, “If the coronavirus succeeds in bringing people to assess themselves…then intrinsically, it’s good. The coronavirus can be one of the key catalysts of Mashiach.”
He suggested turning the fear and panic over the coronavirus into an opportunity to get closer to Hashem, which, he says, “has the power to rescind harsh judgments and overturn nature. “Emunah and teshuvah are what we need now because Mashiach is fast on the way, and once Mashiach comes, it’s going to be too late to do teshuvah.”
In his recent shiur, Rabbi Alon Anava similarly taught that, “The Zohar says that the test before the redemption is emunah. Only emunah.”
Lack of Enthusiasm for Rebuilding the Temple
In a video posted Motzei Shabbat, Rabbi Danny Myers of Menorat HaMaor in Ramat Beit Shemesh suggested that a possible cause for the coronavirus outbreak is the lack of attention being paid to rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash.
Myers noted that, according to the Ramban, a plague at the end of Shmuel Bet that killed 70,000 came due to a lack of hitorerut for building the First Temple despite the fact that centuries had passed since the Jews had entered Eretz Yisrael with Yehoshua.
Myers said perhaps this topic is “a possible area we need to look into,” noting the Jewish people have had access to the Har HaBayit for over 50 years and, yet, the overwhelming majority of rabbis oppose ascending it or advocating for the rebuilding of the Temple. “‘Stay away. Stay away. Stay away.’ That has been the majority reaction to 50 years of access,” Myers said.