The skin diseases falling under the category or tzarras (often translated as “leprosy”) needed to be determined by a kohein (Leviticus 13:1-2). Yet, the so-called “plague of leprosy,” as mentioned in the Tanach, is not exactly the leprosy of more modern times. Rather, it is a category of various skin diseases that need to be determined by the Kohein: for only the Kohein has the authority to make the pronouncement. “And the [kohein] priest shall look on him and pronounce him unclean” (Leviticus 13:3, JPS).
The leprosy of biblical times was the result of spiritual malaise, commonly, the result of lashon harah (literally, evil tongue – a type of gossip). “The word, metzorah (someone, who has tzaaras – leprosy) is a contraction of motzi ra, meaning, “one who spreads slander” (Arachin 15b). The very visible chastisement is meant to show that the metzorah must mend his ways. In other words, the outward sign is meant to compel him to do teshuvah (repentance).
Sin may be manifest in our lives, living below the surface of our awareness. For this reason, one must make an attempt to examine one’s life. There are visible signs, at times, that we need to understand as wake-up calls. Also, when the children of Israel entered the land, sometimes they found mold in the walls; so, they would have to dig out the mold. On the one hand, the nega (plague) in the form of mold should serve for them to search their conscience, on the other hand, they often found hidden treasures in the walls, hidden by the previous occupants, the Canaanites, who hoped to return. By way of an analogy, there is always a reward for rectifying our faults.
“Let me fall now into the hand of the L-RD, for very great are His mercies; and let me not fall into the hand of man.” – 1 Chronicles 21:12, JPS 1917 Tanach
In parashas Ki Tisa, a census is taken wherein each person gave a half shekel as an atonement for his soul. The half shekel is described as a ransom for the soul, so that there will not be a plague when the census is taken (Exodus 30:12). The ransom guarantees that there will be no plague, as a result of the collective sins of Israel.
Commentary explains that because at the time of a census, wherein each man is counted, it is as if every man is also scrutinized in regard to his moral status. Inasmuch that deficiencies in thought, speech, and behavior may always be found upon such scrutiny, the ransom of a half shekel is necessary for atonement.
At the time of King David, a census was taken, by way of his directive; however, this displeased H’Shem, so a message was given to David to choose one of three consequences. Rather than be subject to famine, or his foes, David exclaimed that he would prefer to “fall into the hand of the L-RD” (see above).
Thus, G-d sent a plague throughout Israel. He then sent a destroying angel to enact a plague upon Jerusalem, until H’Shem decided out of His mercy to spare Jerusalem from destruction. David and the elders repented, saying, “let Thy hand, I pray Thee, O L-RD my G-d, be against me, and against my father’s house; but not against Thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).
The origin of the coronavirus has been shrouded in mystery, debate, and politics. Joshua Phillip, an investigative journalist with the Epoch Times, did expert research on the coronavirus, in order to present an excellent documentary, “Tracking Down the Origin of Wuhan Coronavirus.” His background for over ten years has been in investigative work, regarding Chinese espionage and unconventional warfare. In the documentary, he discloses the Chinese cover up, interviews scientists about the structure of the coronavirus, and presents credible documentation throughout the entire documentary. The evidence is compelling; I would especially recommend assiduously watching part two.
“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”
Is the time drawing near for the sea to part? Is the Geulah (Redemption) at hand? The sages, in all of their sharp acuity, draw a parallel between the First Redemption, and the Final Redemption: akin to plagues that devastated Egypt, before the exodus of the Children of Israel, so will many plagues, even more than those inflicted upon ancient Egypt, precede the final redemption. This is gleaned from the following verse: “As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt, will I show unto him marvellous things” (Micah 7:15, JPS). Could the modern day plague of the coronavirus be a foreshadowing of the Messianic Age?
The current exile (galus) of the Jewish people began almost two thousand years ago, when the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. We were dispersed amongst the nations, as we still are today to some degree. Even though the state of Israel was renewed in 1948, without the Third Temple, we are technically still in exile. This is one reason why we proclaim every year, at the end of our Passover seder, “Next Year in Yerushalayim.” In essence, this does not refer to having the opportunity to fly to Israel via El Al Airlines, in order to make aliyah to our Biblical homeland. Rather, this alludes to the Geulah (Redemption), when Moshiach will reign from Jerusalem.
At that time, “peace on earth,” in all of its splendor will prevail over the unruly forces, that have no interest in recognising G-d’s sovereignty. Needless to say, we are only witnessing the beginning of these forces to potentially impact society in an unprecedented way; the road has been paved ever since the Age of Enlightenment, when the Deity of Reason was worshipped, to the diminishment of a focus on G-d, and religious values. This set the background for the French Revolution.
Behind the facade of a higher cause, these forces hold sway over any godless movement, whose roots are deeper than its claims to higher ideals, human rights, or “power to the people.” It is interesting to note, that as a result of the Bubonic plague of the 14th Century in Europe, “some historians believe that society subsequently became more violent as the mass mortality rate cheapened life and thus increased warfare, crime, popular revolt, waves of flagellants, and persecution” (Wikipedia). As far as I know, excepting self-flagellation, this seems to ring true today, in the face of COVID-19. “If we do not learn from the past, history will repeat itself.”
Am I overconcerned with the state of affairs in the world, and, more specifically, in America today? Others are apparently even more concerned. “In a normal month [Nefesh B’Nefesh] receives several hundred to a few thousand calls,” yet, this past June the Jewish organisation that promotes aliyah from the U.S. to Israel received 25,000 calls (VosIzNeias). For myself, I would only take that step, if and when I would hear the call from H’Shem, as has been mentioned by several fellow Jews in the not so recent past, concerning intuition from Above. Yet, the call to teshuvah, in and of itself, is primary; and, may be viewed the in light Hillel’s adage, “It’s not where you are, but how you are.” And, “if not now, when.”
“And thou shalt bethink thyself among the nations, whither the L-RD thy G-d hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the L-RD thy G-d.”
“So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit [Sheol]; and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the assembly.” – Numbers 16:33, JPS 1917 Tanach
Korach gathered the adus (congregation) against Moses and Aaron, in an attempt to overthrow their authority by means of an outright rebellion (Numbers 16:1-3). It was an opportune time for rebellion, inasmuch that the people were already disgruntled, because of the decree proclaimed by H’Shem that the men, over twenty years of age would all pass away in the wilderness, during the course of the next thirty-nine years, as a consequence of their lack of trust in H’Shem, when they neglected to enter the land at the designated time.
Korach, Dathan and Aviram were the ringleaders of the uprising. As a result of their insurgency, Korach perished (AVD), along with his family, and Dathan and Aviram, with their families, when they were swallowed up by the earth. Incidentally, the Hebrew word yov’du, translated as “perished,” derives from the shoresh (root word), aleph-beis-dalet. The word, avadon, is also derived from the same shoresh. Avadon refers to a place of destruction similar to Sheol, possibly Gehinnom. Additionally, the two hundred fifty men of renown, who followed him were consumed by fire from H’Shem, when they attempted to offer up incense, individually, every man his fire pan.
Both punishments were clearly by way of divine intervention; yet, the people ignored this. They still had a complaint against Moshe: they claimed that Moshe was responsible for the deaths of Korach’s two hundred fifty followers. The people themselves had been rallied by Korach against Moshe and Aaron; now, their enthusiasm was piqued by the loss of these men, who supported the rebellion. In response, to subdue another uprising, H’Shem sent a plague amongst the people, wherein 14,500 perished, before Aaron intervened at the urgent insistence of Moses.
“And Moses said unto Aaron: ‘Take thy fire-pan, and put fire therein from off the altar, and lay incense thereon, and carry it quickly unto the congregation, and make atonement for them; for there is wrath gone out from the L-RD: the plague is begun’” (Numbers 17:11, JPS 1917 Tanach). The response was immediate: “And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed” (17:13). Symbolically, the burning of incense represents steadfast prayer; perhaps, prayer may serve today as an effectual means to combat the current pandemic.
While spending a few hours writing at my desk, I noticed that the battery charge level on my electronic device was below 10 percent; so, I left my kasha on the kitchen countertop, that I had prepared, for a brief interval between writing endeavors, and went to my travel backpack, where I keep everything that is essential to me. My backpack is a top loading pack with a drawstring, and, when I was reaching inside to find my charger with its cord, I saw that my double layered cotton mask was about to drop out of the bag. So, I quickly reached with my left hand to grab the mask, accidentally jabbing my right hand with the only fingernail, that I hadn’t pared well on the previous Wednesday.
Now, even as I type out these letters on the keyboard, forming words in front of my eyes on the page, I have a hermetically sealed latex free bandaid, wrapped around the part of my hand below the thumb. A constant visible reminder of what would not have been a concern to me five months ago. Yet, I know from a scientific animation in a documentary produced by the Epoch Times, about the origins of the coronavirus, how the virus enters the human body, unlocking the entrance to a human cell by binding to its receptor sites; and, I am repulsed to think about how easy it could be, within my imagination, for one germ to get into my very small open wound and change my life forever (G-d forbid).
So, instead of venturing out to the health food store, along the sidewalks of this coronavirus laden town, like all other towns and cities across the States, I decided to stay right at my desk, behind my screen, where I usually am virtually twenty-four seven. Perhaps, I am one of the few people who chooses to remain sheltering in place, despite the lessening of restrictions several weeks ago; and, the percentage of positive cases is up from 5% at the time the restrictions were still in place, to 12% in the state, since that time. Incidentally, the statistical scenario is similar for other states as well. Need I attempt to defend my voluntary hermitage with any other statistic? I have remained adamant, knowing that I am Biblically mandated to stay right where I am:
Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, And shut thy doors about thee; Hide thyself for a little moment, Until the indignation be overpast.
Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach
If everyone in America could be impacted by the realisation that G-d is sovereign, then we could all chill out, knowing that G-d is in charge, even of something as catastrophic as a global pandemic. And, His recommendation to all of us is to relax, until the plague passes from this earth. The verse is likened by rabbinical commentary to the experience of the Children of Israel, during their last night in Egypt, when the Angel of Death was wreaking havoc in the streets of the metropolis. They stayed inside their homes, until the precise time of their redemption. And, who knows whether the above mentioned verse could be rendered as a prophetic statement, also reaching across the generations to this very time?
Our artistic proficiency as human beings is ultimately limited in comparison to the artistic rendering of Creation by G-d. Yet, many artists over the ages, as well as more contemporary artists, even photographers, and graphic artists have made the attempt, and continue to make a concerted effort to capture the essence of G-d’s creative expression. Even more so, all of us created beings should endeavor to imitate and internalize the inner qualities of G-d, in respect to our character, especially the thirteen attributes of mercy.
“And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-RD, the L-RD, G-d, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
– Exodus 34:6-7, JPS 1917 Tanach
By adhering to these attributes in our lives, the world will become a better place; personal changes, the ones shaped within ourselves, first influence the inner person, as well as one’s immediate surroundings, for example, family, friends, and community, before having an impact further outside that social and environmental milieu. The ripple effect, could permit even one act of kindness to make waves that effect others in ways that we may never know.
The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, mentioned in scripture, are part of the liturgy for the Holy Days, requesting G-d’s forgiveness, as well as His mercy upon us. However, the prayer of the Thirteen Attributes has been added to the daily services, being performed three times a day at the Western Wall, specifically, to combat the plague of the coronavirus. This prayer is considered to be a segulah – a remedy in times of dire need. Incidentally, this prayer is traditionally only said with a minyan (quorum of ten congregants).
Yet, these actual characteristics of mercy may be reflected in everyone’s life who takes the time to make the effort to imitate G-d with respect to His qualities. This may be done through forgiveness of others, a calm forebearance towards those who we find hard to bear, and mercy towards those whom we may feel do not deserve to be shown kindness. When we forgive and forget other people’s wrongs, as well as perceived slights against our character, we permit change to occur in ourselves and others for the good. A bruised ego, set aside, creates for the potential to overlook other’s people’s faults.
“It is the discretion of a man to be slow to anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”
“It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the L-RD.”
– Lamentations 3:26
In expectation of redemption from this modern day plague, I wait, knowing that there is a purpose to everything, including my waiting. This time of isolation is valuable beyond words, not only for me, rather, for others as well. If only we are able to use this time in a meaningful way, without stressing, or becoming inundated by the news. I carefully sift through articles, only reading what is accurate, relevant, and essential. For each person this may differ, depending upon various circumstances. However, the so-called “shared” common experience, is that most of us are spending a lot of time behind closed doors.
Yet, what kind of world will we have to look forward to after the plague is eradicated? The world is already being transformed. We can not expect a continuation of “business as usual.” If anything, we are seeing the beginning of the birthpangs of Moshiach (Messiah). Our eyes should be cast towards Shomayim (Heaven). Few may understand, what lies ahead. According to the sages, the Final Redemption will be like the First Redemption. The plagues in Egypt will not compare. “As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him [Israel] marvellous things” (Micah 7:15, JPS 1917 Tanach).
3,332 years ago, the Israelites ate the Pesach meal, in their own homes, behind closed doors, while the the tenth plague was enacted upon the Egyptian homes. The Destroying Angel roamed the streets of Egypt, taking the first born of every home, except for the homes wherein the blood of the Pesach lamb was placed upon the lintels and doorposts. This Passover will very closely resemble the original Pesach – the last night before our freedom ensued. Most of us will be behind the closed doors of our own homes. Although there is a mitzvah (commandment) to invite others into our homes, the only guest that we will be inviting, towards the end of the seder is Elijah the Prophet.
May we all be able to say together in spirit, and in expectation of the our Redemption, at the end of the seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Moreover, it is interesting to note, that in Jerusalem they say, “Next Year in Rebuilt Jerusalem.” This pertains to the rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. That is the true significance of the phrase, that we are looking forward to the Messianic Redemption.
The redemption of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) began on Shabbos, specifically, the tenth of Nissan. That Shabbos became known as Shabbat HaGadol. What was so special about the Tenth of Nissan? That day was when the Children of Israel were commanded to bring a lamb into each and every one of their homes. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3, JPS 1917 Tanach).
Why was this the beginning of the Redemption for B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel)? Because the lamb was to be the first national offering, made by each and every family, for the sake of using the blood of the lamb as a sign, placed upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes. The blood would serve as a sign, whereby, “the L-RD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the L-RD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).
And, so, the tenth plague, the slaying of the first born, was not enacted upon the Children of Israel. They were spared, because of their emunah (faith) in H’Shem, that compelled them to carry out the commandment, regarding the Pesach lamb. They had been further commanded, “none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning” (Exodus 12:23).
“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, And shut thy doors about thee; Hide thyself for a little moment, Until the indignation be overpast.”
“And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed.”
– Exodus 17:11, JPS 1917 Tanach
During the war with Amalek, with Joshua at the helm, Moshe stood on a hill and prayed. How did he pray? He lifted up his hands; actually, he held the staff above his head for hours upon hours. So much of a burden was this that two men, Aaron and Hur “stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady, until the going down of the sun” (Exodus 17:12).
Amalek was weakened, because of the divine effort made on the part of Moshe, combined with the actual battle wherein Joshua led the Children of Israel. Yet, Aaron and Hur also deserve credit, inasmuch that they supported Moshe as he prayed to H’Shem. One can also imagine the people, seeing Moshe on the mountain, continuously lifting “the staff of G-d” (Exodus 17:9) above his head, gathering strength from this inspiring show of encouragement.
The people on the front line of this battle were supplemented in their war against Amalek by the continuous prayer of Moshe. This serves as an example to us; for many are battling against this modern day plague of Corona virus, that can even be likened to Amalek. For the inhumanity of Amalek manifested in their attack upon the most vulnerable of the population, who were as stragglers at the rear of the procession from camp to camp.
Therefore, our heartfelt prayers as well as our contributions in other ways may serve as behind the scenes support in this battle against a plague that mostly inflicts serious injury to the elderly, as well as those with preexistent medical conditions. Yet, recent statistics show that even those between 20 and 54 are being seriously afflicted by Corona virus. It is time to pray, heartfelt prayer to H’Shem, until the sun sets on this plague, when it is banished from the world.
“Be Thou exalted, O L-RD, in Thy strength; so will we sing and praise Thy power.”