It's found in the chapter entitled Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 26: An Explanation on the Subject of Plague & How It Occurs in the World, Rachmana Litzlan.
Before we delved into that mind-boggling saga, it's important to understand something about Rav Petiyah.
Despite the fact that he always comes off as a gentle, sweet grandfather, he was also a tremendously holy talmid chacham and mekubal.
He developed such closeness to Hashem that he faced even the most terrifying situations with serenity.
So when he enters into conversations with entities like malachim mashchitim (destroying angels) or the angels in charge of tormenting souls sentenced to the dreaded Kaf HaKaleh (The Slingshot — an afterlife punishment worse than Gehinnom/Hell), it's important to understand that we would find these beings absolutely terrifying if we encountered them.
They seem rather nice and sympathetic when he interacts with them, but that's probably not how our experience would be at all — because we aren't at Rav Petiyah's level of holiness.
Rav Petiyah is also incredibly humble, so he doesn't mention that these entities respect him because of his great holiness & righteousness.
But that's the reality behind the scenes of how he humbly portrays himself in these real-life accounts.
So with that in mind, let's look at Rav Petiyah's encounter with the fearsome malachim mashchitim of the 1915 plague in Baghdad...
(Note: The encounter as Rav Petiyah presents it is told here in full, then an analysis and explanation of the events follows at the end, with some explanations interspersed in the middle.)
The Spiritual Epidemiology of an Epidemic
He wants us to understand the ultimate source before describing what he experienced.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 26:20:
לֵ֤ךְ עַמִּי֙ בֹּ֣א בַֽחֲדָרֶ֔יךָ וּֽסְגֹ֥ר דלתיך דְּלָֽתְךָ֖ בַּעֲדֶ֑ךָ חֲבִ֥י כִמְעַט־רֶ֖גַע עַד־יַעֲבׇור־זָֽעַם
Lech ami bo bachadarecha usgor d’latcha ba’adecha chavi kimat rega ad ya’avar za’am. Ki hinei H’ yotzeh mimkomo lifkod avon yoshev ha’aretz alav, etc.
Go, My people, come into your chambers and close your door about you; hide for but a moment, until the wrath passes.
Rashi on this verse explains that "your chambers (chadarecha)" mean 2 things:
- the synagogues and the study houses
- to think about your deeds, in the chambers of your heart
Then Rashi explains that "close your door about you" means:
- Do good deeds that will protect you.
- Close the doors of your mouth so as not to question the divine standard of justice.
And "hide" means:
- Hide a little until the wrath passes, for indeed I will visit upon your enemies.
Then Rav Petiyah quotes Yeshayahu 26:21:
כִּי הִנֵּה יְהוָה יֹצֵא מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לִפְקֹד עֲוֹן יֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ עָלָיו וְגִלְּתָה הָאָרֶץ אֶת דָּמֶיהָ וְלֹא תְכַסֶּה עוֹד עַל הֲרוּגֶיהָ
Ki hinei Hashem yotzeh mimkomo lifkod avon yoshev ha'aretz alav v'giltah ha'aretz et dame'ah v'lo t'chaseh od al haruge'ah
For behold the Lord comes forth from His Place to visit the iniquity of the dweller of the land upon him: and the land shall reveal its blood and it shall no longer cover over its slain ones.
And who is the "dweller of the land"? Rashi says it's either Mount Seir or Esav & Mount Seir or Esav on Mount Seir.
Either way, "dweller of the land" represents Esav, who is the progenitor of Edom.
And the slain ones, says Rashi, are the Jews slain by the "dweller of the land" – whom Rashi identifies as connected to Esav.
It also bears noting that the Hebrew word used here for "iniquity" is avon (ah-vohn) with an ayin, which the Malbim defines as "a sin derived from corrupted thinking."
With all that in mind, Rav Petiyah states that his opinion that verse 26:20 refers to a time of plague.
Referring to Bava Kamma and the Arizal's Sha'ar Hakavanot, Rav Petiyah delves into an explanation of how vital Hebrew letters of Hashem's 4-letter Name go missing because of avon (a sin derived from corrupted thinking).
And this is also the secret of Pitom HaKetoret.
(It was too complex for me to understand well enough to explain it here, but that's the process in a nutshell.)
Anyway, when these letters go missing, their illumination dims and then dever comes into the world.
Dever is often translated as "pestilence."
It can affect human beings, but we know from the Torah that dever was the 5th plague that killed off the Egyptian animals — so it's a disease that can harm both people and animals.
(Interestingly, that is what many also claim about HIV and also coronavirus, that they infect both humans & animals.)
Anyway, the above (sins emanating from corrupted thinking cause letters of Hashem's 4-letter Name to go missing, which dims its illumination, which brings dever into the world) is apparently the spiritual epidemiology of any epidemic.
And it's all hinted there in Yeshayahu.
Why is It So Important for Hashem to Remain in His "Place"?
This refers to Hashem's Place of Mercy.
As Rav Petiyah states:
For in the time He will be in His Place, He will be blessed and not immersed in anger.
And the text announces to us that nothing bad will happen to us, and that it [Zecharyah 14:3]: “And the Lord shall go forth and wage war with those nations” – davka them.
The Baghdad Plague of 1915
Around 100 amot (approx. 170 feet) from there, Rav Petiyah spotted a type of shelter called an achsadra.
This achsadra had no walls, just a roof-covering supported by a pillar in each of its 4 corners.
Under the roof stood 40-50 men in military uniforms consisting of black wool with one finger-width red stripe of wool going along the arm (like maybe from the shoulder to the wrist) and along the collar. The red wool was sewn on top of the black wool.
Rav Petiyah understood that they'd already been inside the city and now they gathered into this achsadra in order to refresh themselves.
Though Rav Petiyah stood around 10 amot (approx. 17 feet) from them, they didn't see him.
Rav Petiyah describes their behavior as follows:
And they were standing and looking and scrutinizing the sides of the city, is if they wanted to know what’s happening in the city and what activity they’re doing there, because in those days there was a plague in the city — may such trouble not arise twice.
It seemed to me that those military men — they were the ones who were plaguing & striking the people of the city.
Three elderly Jewish poor men stood near the gate.
Rav Petiyah joined them "grieving and sorrowful over the plague."
“Over one matter, I am very troubled," he said to them.
Then Rav Petiyah proceeded to explain that when Am Yisrael had Prophets, and then after the era of Prophecy ended, Am Yisrael merited people with ruach hakodesh or access to a bat kol or dreams that contained true messages...Am Yisrael at least received warning BEFORE being punished.
And if Am Yisrael didn't listen, they at least understood WHY they were being punished.
So they were told by their Prophets or holy people that they sinned or erred, and Am Yisrael was begged to do teshuvah or else Hashem would first reap that punishment on the haters of Israel. Then Am Yisrael would do teshuvah, and Hashem would tear up the terrible decree.
It was all nice & neat, especially in the time of the Prophets.
Rav Petiyah explains all that as he speaks with the grieving elders.
Then Rav Petiyah adjures on behalf of Am Yisrael:
And so in our many transgressions, we lack everything.
And in the coming of some kind of trouble, we don’t know its purpose, and to which way we must turn to cancel the decree.
And we are comparable to the rebbi who oppresses his student and like a father who chastises his child, yet who do not say to him ‘That from the reason that so-and-so sinned, he was stricken.’
Ahh! upon us and upon the badness of our mazal! For we are struck with no warning and without knowledge of the transgression for which we are struck.
And another question for our Lord: If one man will sin, then on the entire community will He display His Wrath?
And what's more: For the people who themselves sin — their homes are peace without fear and the rod of God is not upon them.
And the people who go in unsuspecting innocence [holchei temimei derech] — they are the ones who become trapped in their transgressions…
The above are not words of petulance or resentment.
Rav Petiyah was not concerned for himself at all; instead, he was going on the defense — the defense of his fellow Jews, despite their sins.
In an effort to sweeten the terrible judgement over the city, Rav Petiyah continued in this vein, beseeching on behalf of his errant brethren, until 3 of those black-and-red-uniformed soldiers approached.
Rav Petiyah knew exactly who they were: mashchitim — destructive entities.
Yet he seemed to feel no fear whatsoever.
And they told Rav Petiyah:
Know that the decree of this plague is because there are people who eat neveilot & treifot and meat & dairy in the inns of the gentiles.
And not only that, but also in the inn of a Jew, they cook those forbidden foods.
And what’s more, there are a few people who cook in their homes neveilah & treif meat, and meat & dairy. And behold, even if it is possible to rectify the inn of the Jew, tell us please — are you able to also govern the inn of the gentiles not to cook treif & neveilah meat?
Or the rest of the people who cook these forbidden foods in their homes?
For it is unpreventable.
And if so, what will it help if we will tell them the reason for the plague? And therefore, the letters mem-alef-chaf-lamed (מאכל) are made in the combination mem-lamed-alef-chaf (מלאך) – the destroyer of the nation [mashchit ha’am].”
- mem-alef-chaf-lamed (מאכל) spell out ma'achal — food
- mem-lamed-alef-chaf (מלאך) spell out malach — angel
There are pleasant angels and not-so-pleasant angels.
These are malachim mashchitim — destroyer angels.
Also, treif is an unkosher animal or unkosher mixture (like meat & dairy together) and a neveilah is an animal — including of the kosher variety — that did not undergo kosher slaughter, like the carcass of an animal found somewhere that died of old age or illness.
Interestingly, the malachim mashchitim seem to also accuse those gentiles who operate non-kosher public places.
Why would that be?
A non-Jew commits no sin when he eats treif or neveilah, as long as it's not the limb from a living animal.
It seems to me (and I could be wrong) this implies that non-Jews have a responsibility not to knowingly feed Jews non-kosher food.
In those days in that location, Arabs certainly knew the difference between Jews and themselves by sight. Furthermore, they well knew the prohibition on Jews against eating non-kosher meat or mixtures.
Yet they served them this food anyway.
True, they think it's fine because they feel their religion supersedes ours, but that is always the case when we sin because people don't sin unless they justify their acts & beliefs to themselves.
Or, as the Malbim defines avon, we suffer from corrupted thinking.
Yet it's still avon and punishable.
In other words, distorted thinking is no excuse. We have a responsibility to at least try to seek the truth.
In reply, Rav Petiyah (who is always on our side) suggests: "So why not just kill those people that eat these forbidden foods?”
Right! Why should the innocent suffer needlessly?
But these destroyers have their reasons. They answer:
Know, that even though we are called "destroyers [mashchitim]," with all that, we still have compassion, and we have mercy on the creatures.
And the matter is that all those same people who eat treif & neveilot, meat & milk — all their names are written by us. And death has already been decreed on them if they don’t do teshuvah.
And the rest of the human beings who sin in the rest of the transgressions and sins — they aren’t listed with us.
But if we’ll meet them on the way, we have permission to strike them -- or not to strike them, as it is written: ‘His iniquities [avonotav] shall trap the wicked man [rasha], and he shall be hung with the ropes of his sin [chata’o]’ (Mishlei 5:22). And about them it is said, ‘…and some perish without justice [mishpat]’ (Mishlei 13:23).
And here, if we strike and slay only those written in our notebook, won’t it be enough for them one day or two days to slay all of them? For behold their judgment is already decreed and signed.
And there is no court trial Above; we must still sit and examine their judgement. But if we’ll do so, to cause them to die in one day or two days, you must know that most of the people of the city will die from fear & shock, and will not achieve their allotment of life.
But from our great compassion that we have mercy on the creatures, we strike also the rest of the people who are not written in our notebooks, but whom most of them have transgressions.
Indeed, since death is not decreed upon them, only that we met up with them, so we need a Heavenly court trial to sit and examine their judgement, whether they are worthy to die or not.
And during all the continuation of time of scrutinizing the judgement, that very destroyer cannot destroy any of the living, even from among those written in his notebook, until the Heavenly Tribunal will complete the verdict of that same man.
And it turns out that this way or that, not so many human beings will die.
And also those same people who are inscribed for death — it’s possible they’ll do teshuvah. And their decree of judgement will be torn up and they won’t die. And also the rest of the human beings will not die from great fear and panic.
That is our way and our custom for the good of the creatures.
But that's probably not what their pinkas (notebook) looked like.
And behold, last week on Thursday, 20 Shvat (February 4, 1915), Hashem rained down hail in the city because switching the letters of dever (דבר) leads to the combination barad (ברד)[hail].
Therefore, we assembled here in the achsadra until we’ll see what the rectification of the city will be.
- dever — dalet-bet/vet-reish — pestilence
- barad — bet-reish-dalet — hail
And then the maschitim take a breather to reassess the situation and see what the city's tikkun will be.
Then they provide Rav Petiyah with proof that this whole experience is not just a dream:
They inform him that he and the 2 men with him will speak with a man who eats neveilot & treifot and that Rav Petiyah and the 2 men with him will warn this sinner not to eat neveilot & treifot anymore.
If this sinner will totally reject the warning and refuse to stop, the mashchitim instruct them to tell the sinner, "Since you have rejected our words, we decree upon you that in this-and-such day at this-and-such hour, you will be struck with the plague. And at this-and-such hour, you will die.’
"And," conclude the mashchitim, "you’ll see that it will be so, no more & no less. And in this way, you’ll know that this dream is true.”
At that point, the maschchitim turn away from Rav Petiyah and exit from the city, along with all their comrades-in-arms.
Yet as they did so, another 120 destroyers came to assist the first destroyers to strike the people of the city.
But when they saw that the first destroyers themselves were going out, these newly arrived 120 were surprised and said in a whisper, “If so, then for what did we endure the rigors of the way to come and help the first destroyers after they also are going out of the city?”
Why did they whisper? And it is news to me that these spiritual entities endure the rigors of journey to arrive at their appointed destination — much like real foot soldiers.
Yet no more is explained.
Rav Petiyah concludes:
And I saw that all of them stood at the eastern gate of the city. Until this point, I saw.
And on Thursday, 4 Adar, 5675 [February 18, 1915], the plague ceased among the Jews even though it still was active among the gentiles.
Or even thoughts like, "Nah, I wouldn't be at all frightened to death by treif-eaters falling like flies — just kill the treif-eaters please and not the rest of us, please! Thanks!"
There's a ton to examine here.
Let's get started by going back to when Rav Petiyah first spotted these destroyer angels dressed as uniformed soldiers in black & red, and how he got the ball rolling by uttering protestations on behalf of Am Yisrael.
How was Rav Petiyah's Protests against the Heavenly Decree Different than Ours? Why were His Protests So Effective?
We know we should thank Hashem for the good along with the bad, because the bad is meant for our benefit too.
Furthermore, many people protest to Hashem about why babies and innocent children suffer.
We are taught that hurling accusations at Heaven can actually bring more suffering.
So why were Rav Petiyahs protestations so effective?
First of all, there is the concept of acting us a sanigor, an advocate on behalf of Am Yisrael.
That's what Rav Petiyah was doing (and what the famous Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev used to do.)
Rav Petiyah wasn't angry at Hashem nor did he think that everything was unfair.
Rav Petiyah profoundly loved Hashem & was well-aware that Hashem profoundly loves us even more.
He wasn't self-righteous or self-pitying. Not at all.
He knew he was speaking to the Most Compassionate and the Most Just.
And that makes all the difference.
What's Up with the Black and Red Uniforms?
- This might shed some light on why idolatrous groups err so badly (and are so stupid, let's be honest).
Apparently, the mashchitim do have the capacity for mercy (sort of like real soldiers in the line of duty), so for those people of higher perception who might actually be able to see these entities, it might look like they have more control & power than they do.
The wicked occultist Bila'am could probably see these things, for example.
And it might look like you should plead your case to the entities.
After all, they're the ones holding the gun, so to speak.
You may only beg mercy from Hashem. He can sweeten your judgement, cross your name off their list, and so on.
Also, it sounds like they might even get irked if you would turn to them personally without doing teshuvah and turning to Hashem.
So people who turn to entities are making things so much worse for themselves on all levels.
After all, these destroyer angels clearly know the Truth. They know what you should really be doing.
- The black & red theme is creepy.
The black & red theme features in occult practice. I don't know much about it nor do I wish to know much about it, but it seems there might be a connection.
For example, research into early Nazism shows that the red flag with the black swastika was chosen for its impure spiritual symbolism.
In other words, the entire Nazi flag, both the Buddhist/Hindu swastika AND those particular colors (red & black) were chosen for their spiritual significance to their Buddhism-loving designer & designed especially for and with input from Hitler, yemach shemo. (Please see Part 10-America's Scary New Direction: New-Age Nazis for more on this aspect.)
Again, my assumption is that misguided seers messing with kochot hatumah (impure spiritual forces) perceived these powerful destroyer angels and wished to connect or identify with them in an effort to absorb their destructive powers.
But again, it's focusing on Hashem's servants rather than on the Creator Himself. They don't have power in and of themselves. And they kept repeating to Rav Petiyah, they speak of themselves of "being given" lists and of "having permission" — they have no power outside of whatever Hashem gives them.
This is a core concept of walking in temimut with Hashem and turning only to Him.
- They sound like scary Santas.
Their red and black uniforms (his was the opposite with mostly red with black accents, like a black belt and boots), they know "if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!"
Maybe Santa was originally based on the description by someone able to see a destroying angel, but then was fluffed up for more palatable consumerism.
Actually, yes, I know the concept of Santa goes back much farther and is of pagan sources.
How Striking "Innocent" People is an Act of Compassion
- How is striking innocent people a chessed?
A prime reason given by the mashchitim for striking innocent people is that, paradoxically, less people die that way.
Again, their theory is that, in addition to the guilty dying of plague, tons of other people would die of fright — much more than would die by striking both the guilty and the innocent.
(And as they said, the innocent are actually not necessarily so innocent; even if they hadn't eaten treifot & neveilot, they've done other things.)
Plus, because the mashchitim cannot strike another person until the person they struck undergoes his or her Heavenly trial, during which the person might do teshuvah and save themselves, so this actually slows the death rate.
(See? The destroyer angels actually have many limitations placed upon them. They can only function within a certain framework. So thus, we turn straight to Hashem.)
Are you thinking: Oh c'mon. Would more people really die of fright seeing the guilty die than by a mixture of the innocent (who are actually not necessarily so innocent) & guilty die? Of fright? Really?
Here's why I think it makes sense:
First of all, I think that people dying of sheer fright upon seeing the forbidden-food-eaters dropping dead is both culture & the culture of those times.
For example, Middle Eastern people, especially back then, were more emotional & passionate than Europeans. They could get worked up more, especially since the surrounding non-Jewish culture of the Middle East tended to be highly superstitious.
Furthermore, I've read about Europeans from that time period who also got worked up and experienced health problems from fright or anxiety. Hysteria, nerves, and so on used to be common diagnoses.
In fact, when my great-great-grandmother in a European shtetl wrapped herself up in her shawl and went looking for her husband one Saturday night (he hadn't returned after Shacharit because he'd gone to the Rebbe), she saw Mottel the tailor (yes, there was really a tailor named Mottel!) and called out to him, "Mottel, Mottel! Have you seen my husband?"
To her puzzlement, he stared at her in sheer terror, then took off as fast as his feet could take him.
She just shrugged and kept looking.
What she didn't know is that he'd run straight home, stated that he encountered a ghost who sought him out by name, then passed out on the spot.
His family removed him to his bed, where he lay unable to recover for a couple of weeks.
When my great-great-grandmother, hearing that Mottel was desperately ill, managed to bring a pot of nourishing soup to help out, she heard the story of Mottel's desperate state and was able to clear things up on the spot.
(Apparently, Mottel only heard his name being called and not the part about her looking for her husband.)
Needless to say, Mottel made a speedy & complete recovery.
So maybe it's a generational thing, that people got more emotional about things.
On the other hand, let's say that today we would see everyone who ate treifot & neveilot drop dead, chas v'shalom.
Due to the extremely lax & ignorant level of our generation today, the death rate would reach the millions. (Remember, despite the flourishing Orthodox communities, kashrut-observant Jews are still in the minority.)
Probably we would realize the connection on our own, or at least our Gadolim would tell us the reason.
Even more chilling, we would see people we thought were so frum die because they secretly ate bacon double-cheeseburgers.
To make matters even worse, if any of us had eaten treif, even if we'd done teshuvah, we might become terrified that we'd be next, chalilah.
This would be in addition to all the fatalities to deal with on a practical level.
In modern times, this could be imagined as all who used their Internet for unclean activity just dropped dead — at least, those who weren't in the middle of doing teshuvah for it, I mean.
Again, we might come to the conclusion on our own as people are found slumped over their keyboard or phone with the unclean site still on their screen.
And our Gadolim would tell us too.
People who we thought were so frum would also be found this way, much to the horror & mortification of their families and those who knew them.
And people who have done such activity in the past, even if they've done full teshuvah for it, might die of fright & panic.
So that's a way to understand the logic of the mashchitim during the 1915 Plague of Baghdad.
- Granting the opportunity for everyone to do teshuvah
Killing off all the transgressors of a particular sin offers them little or no chance to do teshuvah.
While we tend to focus on a length, high-quality physical life, it's life in the Next World that really matters.
So in addition to shortening life of the transgressor (which is also a type of atonement, but not necessarily a full one, depending) & traumatizing his family, he faces a very disappointing Olam Haba.
Aside from that, as the mashchitim mention, the non-treif-eaters they strike have generally committed other transgressions, yet because they're not listed in the mashchit notebooks, they do not die immediately but undergo a Heavenly trial as they lie sick in bed.
This enables them to do teshuvah on their own sins (if they choose).
Either way, people receive the opportunity to sweeten the judgement and merit the deadly decree torn up, whether they are on the list or not.
Furthermore, by striking those not in their notebooks, this prevents the mashchit from striking anyone else, whether on their official list or not, because they are not allowed to strike anyone else until the non-listed person they struck gets their judgement completed.
Furthermore, what happens to those people who don't achieve their "allotment of life" (archot chayim)?
They cannot achieve the rectifications they were placed here to achieve. So do they undergo Gehinnom? Being born again in another reincarnation?
They were placed in that particular life for a reason and for their own benefit, they must fulfill the purpose for which they were assigned that life.
Regarding the suffering of small children or babies in these events, this often has to do with past-life sins. There are also other reasons and we aren't privy to all the reasons, nor can we understand the reasons, but the reasons exist.
So altogether, this method actually lessens the amount of fatalities.
In other words, despite the harsh decree of plague, there is still mercy happening.
With the Concept of Malachim Mashchitim, the Illogically Orchestrated Quarantines Make So Much More Sense!
- "But if we’ll meet them on the way, we have permission to strike them — or not to strike them..."
This...but THIS turned on the light bulb for me regarding the current quarantine.
As noted in previous posts, the current quarantines are neither here nor there.
If this was really something as awful & dangerous as the Black Plague or Ebola, even nations with very strict quarantines (like Israel) should not have had the openings they did, like permission for essentials like shopping, bringing home citizens rather than telling them to shelter in place, or imposing the way-too-short 14-day individual quarantines.
(I went into this in more detail in a previous post: Coronavirus: Facts, Fears, and a Deeper Look at What's Really Going On.)
The quarantines, as stifling as some of them are, aren't enough to protect the truly vulnerable (over-70 AND/OR with underlying medical issues that weaken immunity) because they need NO EXPOSURE WHATSOEVER.
If they face a higher risk of death upon infection, then they should not be exposed at all.
With coronavirus's apparently high contagiousness and the fact that it lives well enough on all sorts of surfaces, granting vulnerable populations the opportunity to shop at certain times (when the virus is still possibly in the employees, in the air and on surfaces affected prior to the special hour) cannot be truly effective.
It might lower their risk a bit, but that's a far cry from eliminating the risk completely.
Secondly, the rest of the population is not really in danger of death or even of a severe reaction to infection. So why impose such harmful measures on people who are not in any statistical danger?
Based on the reports we have up until now, the quarantines seem like they cannot be so effective and are instead mostly feel-like-we-are-doing-something strictures mostly for show.
Furthermore, many people do not show ANY symptoms yet receive a positive result from the test (if the test is even accurate), the masks are mostly ineffective unless you know how to remove them steriley — and even then, the masks work mostly to protect others if you are infected, and don't protect you so much, especially when you bring your mask home to your family and do not remove it steriley.
Furthermore, there are growing indications that a recovered coronavirus infection does not confer immunity.
Meaning, there may be no way to prevent a coronavirus infection. (So the fatalist in me threw up my hands and said, What is the point of even trying?)
Especially because it attaches to & lives on surfaces, there seems no logical way of preventing infection or being rid of it.
HOWEVER, when you look at it as malachim mashchitim taking aim, the neither-here-nor-there quarantines make so much more sense!
The less you go out, the less likely you are to run into such entities.
Viewing the coronavirus pandemic from a purely epidemiological point of view brings about despair & fatalism.
But seeing it from a spiritual point of view, the neither-here-nor-there quarantines make sense because they limit exposure to malachim mashchitim, who are limited in number. Yes, there may be a lot of them, but according to Rav Petiyah's description, there aren't as many as there are germs.
And yes, the malachim mashichitim still have the power to decide whether to strike or not even when they do encounter someone, but it's clearly best to avoid them altogether.
This really helped me to accept the rules against leaving the home. It just makes much more sense this way.
It helped me see how the illogical quarantines were from Hashem, as a way of protecting us.
And now with the quarantines being lifting in many places, maybe that's a sign that the mashchitim are less active in those areas now.
Anyway, according to current reports, coronavirus isn't even a dangerous infection unless one suffers from underlying conditions, making one vulnerable in some way.
Having said that, Rav Miller opined that even with a simple cold virus going around, one should still avoid crowds to avoid getting & spreading even a cold virus.
Personally, I plan to go out now for exercise & errands, but not among crowds, and to take my son to school when his grade opens.
Also, in the account, the mashchitim did not state their criteria for how they decide to strike or not strike a person they encountered.
Maybe if they encounter someone admiring apple seeds (as per Rav Avigdor Miller's advice) rather than someone admiring something more sinful, they're less likely to strike.
So I guess it's a good thing to do teshuvah or think thoughts of gratitude and admire Hashem's world when we do go out.
The Connection between Pestilence & Hail
- dever — dalet-bet/vet-reish — pestilence
- barad — bet-reish-dalet — hail
For a long time now, and especially in the recent year, we've seen some truly bizarre hail events.
Huge and/or frequent hail worldwide — and sometimes in such copious amounts, it ended up looking like big snow drifts on the ground.
Did you know that hail can be a precursor to pestilence?
(In ancient Egypt, the plague of dever preceded barad. Either way, they are clearly connected.)
Eretz Yisrael also received more hail in the past couple of years than I ever remember seeing since I came here over 25 years ago.
Little did we know it was a sign of dever to come...
This also gives us a glimpse into Hashem's Patience.
There was obviously din in the works for years now, but only now has He hit us with an epidemic — and it's not even as awful as epidemics usually are (though that's little comfort to those who have been hit very hard by coronavirus, may the ill merit a speedy & complete recovery and may the mourners be comforted).
Some Final Theories
- These entities aren't physical. So why did the new reinforcements coming in complain about the toil of the journey? And why do they need to journey, like a march? They aren't physical.
- Why did the plague start among the poor & impoverished?
- Why, after all those explanations of why they do what they do, did the destroyer troops immediately leave?
- Why were the gentiles punished for the Jews' transgressions?
- Why did the plague stop among the Jews but continue among the gentiles?
I don't know the answer to the first. The whole idea of them in uniforms and troops, and using an achsadra as their lookout point? Not a clue.
Why did the plague start with the poor & impoverished? The germ theory explains that a lack of hygiene, more common among impoverished & primitive living conditions, causes & increases disease.
But as for a more spiritual explanation, I'm honestly not sure — unless the physical presence of disease conjoins with the spiritual effects too. Or maybe the non-kosher inns were being run by & for the less-well-off residents. Maybe the non-kosher inns resided in the poorer neighborhoods.
And I'm not sure about why they left immediately, despite complaints from the newly arrived reinforcement troops, but I think it's because the din changed.
First of all, Rav Petiyah received exactly what he protested about: He received a true dream in which the transgressions were clearly stated, which would enable Rav Petiyah to inform his community and thus take care of the problem at its root.
With Rav Petiyah on the scene, there was no longer any need for plague among the Jewish community.
But why were the gentiles punished for the Jews' transgressions? After all, a non-Jew can eat treif food & treif mixtures. If, for example, an Iraqi wishes to eat camel meat in yogurt sauce, what is the problem? There isn't any problem. It's permitted to them.
And if the Jew partakes of it, how does the non-Jew share the guilt?
Rav Petiyah doesn't say, but I think it's this:
Arabs & Jews are pretty good at telling each other apart.
Furthermore, Jewish traditions were pretty well known among the non-Jewish community. An Iraqi Jewish woman told me that at the end of Pesach, their Arab neighbors would come to them offering them bags of flour to use for their mimouna celebration the night Pesach ends. She recalled it fondly.
That shows intimate familiarity with the laws & times of Pesach on the part of the non-Jewish community.
Likewise, these non-Jewish sellers would know that they are selling forbidden food to Jews. Maybe they don't care because their religion says these foods are fine, but deep down, the soul knows.
In fact, I knew a young non-Jewish man in the USA who grew up visiting the home of non-frum Jews who kept kosher. When he encountered other Jews whom he saw eating meat & dairy together, he was shocked & would tell them, "Hey, did you know you're not supposed to be eating that?"
It sounds funny, but it's actually a good thing for a non-Jew to do. And it shows an awareness that deep down, we all sense what we Jews are supposed to be doing.
Nowadays, it's not usually possible to tell who is Jewish and who isn't, unless the Jew is in obviously Jewish clothing. Even a last name doesn't mean as much as it used to.
"Sarah" is popular among non-Jews today and with America's 60% rate of intermarriage (which puts typically Jewish surnames on non-Jewish wives & children), a secular-looking Sarah Goldberg is more likely to be non-Jewish than Jewish today.
I personally have cousins with names like Eli (Elijah) Sirotzkin who have a handsome Jewish face like their father, but who are 100% NOT Jewish.
But apparently, if the non-Jew knows he's dealing with a Jew and what the Jew's rules are, then the non-Jew shares responsibility.
Again, it doesn't state that outright in Rav Petiyah's account, so maybe I'm wrong, but I can't think of another reason why the non-Jewish community seemed to be held responsible for the minority of Jews who ate non-kosher by them.
And why did it continue in the non-Jewish community?
Presumably, the non-Jewish community there would not have been open to hearing from Rav Petiyah. Some Jewish Sages did have the respect of their surrounding non-Jewish community throughout the ages, but many times they did not or were not even known among the non-Jews.
Furthermore, the surrounding gentiles may not have been open at all to hearing that their selling non-kosher food to Jews was such a big problem. In fact, that may have made them very angry at the Jews, like, "Why did you come to eat by us if you knew it was forbidden to you?!" and the like, fanning flames of resentment & wrath against the Jewish community.
Also, the non-Jewish community has sins of its own. As the destroyer angels stated, they struck people innocent of treifot & neveilot, but guilty of other transgressions.
Likely, the continued plague also served as reinforcement for the continued teshuvah of the Jews.
Hashem is the Only Address
Ein od milvado — There is NO one but HIM.
It's very important to walk in temimut with Hashem.
He controls everything.
Even when it looks like other people, events, or entities are operating behind the scenes, it's all brought about and orchestrated by Hashem.
In other words, do NOT go around keeping an eye out for entities in black uniforms with red accents. They are controlled by Hashem and their actions actually depend on our actions. So let's keep the Torah as we should!
There are reasons for everything. We don't & can't know them, but they definitely exist.
Even in a state of harsh judgement, there is still mercy & compassion. We may not perceive them, but the mercy & compassion are definitely there.
Teshuvah is so vitally important and SO POWERFUL!
May we all merit to do complete teshuvah from love with no need for trials or disgrace.