I'm sorry the video is only in Hebrew, but there are Hebrew subtitles also if that helps (it helps me) and lots of really cool & illustrative images are interspersed throughout, if that helps too:
Rav Zamir Cohen Reassures & Encourages:
How Should We Deal with the Coronavirus? (Hebrew only)
He makes lots of interesting points on the spiritual aspects behind this challenge, which also helps us understand what we can do to remedy the situation at its spiritual root.
Here's a summary of the main points:
Fortify Your Emunah by Noticing Hashem's Intimate Orchestrations of the World in General
- Hashem placed Jupiter at the right size, distance, and gravitational pull to shelter Earth from being destroyed by meteors & comets (according to a popular theory of most astronomers).
- Hashem maintains just the right amount of oxygen throughout the world. Even when trees are cut down, the remaining trees produce more leaves to assist in maintaining the necessary oxygen in the world.
- Rather than attacking us, our enemies attack each other, which prevents us from being destroyed (as stated in Yeshayahu 19:2).
- No matter how many missiles are shot into the Jewish areas of Eretz Yisrael, Jews still feel pretty secure about it because we are used to being saved by the hundreds of miracles that have saved us until now. (Or those of little faith rely on the not-totally-effective Iron Dome.) People in places like Sederot get frayed nerves, of course, but even they feel pretty optimistic and are likely to talk about how Hashem protects them.
Following these points, Rav Zamir then states (at minute 2:14):
This is how a person should feel toward the corona: Much worse things don't harm us because we enjoy Divine Supervision. So we should fear the corona?
A person must still observe the health protocols and also obey quarantine orders.
The rav states that health protocols and quarantines are hishtadlut and follow the Torah's directive to "guard your soul."
But aside from the recommended hishtadlut, Rav Zamir warns against submitting to fear & stress.
We must strengthen our emunah & bitachon to know that we are under Hashem's intimate personal Supervision.
At the Same Time, a Pandemic should Rouse Us to Invest in a Cheshbon Hanefesh.
Events we perceive as bad should rouse us to engage in self-introspection, both personally and on a larger scale.
That's exactly the reason Hashem sent us these events.
How do we do this?
Rav Zamir advises the following:
- Look to see what caused the disaster.
- Examine the results of the disaster.
Following these 2 steps regarding coronavirus leads us to...
How Do You Respond to Unlimited Freedom & Opportunity?
because you did not serve the Lord, your God, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] abundance of everything.
תַּ֗חַת אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־עָבַ֨דְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּשִׂמְחָ֖ה וּבְט֣וּב לֵבָ֑ב מֵרֹ֖ב כֹּֽל
when [you had an] abundance of everything: when you still had all good things.
מרב כל: בעוד שהיה לך כל טוב
Did you exercise your free choice properly?
Rav Zamir notes several things that people indulged in or were lax about:
- Unkosher food
- Trips out of Eretz Yisrael (for those already living within Eretz Yisrael) that are not halachically mandated (Rambam, Laws of Kings & Wars, 5:9)
- Netilat yadayim upon rising from sleep, after using the facilities, before eating bread, before eating wet fruit & vegetables, etc.
- Parades & events that "aren't exactly in the spirit of Torah."
- Shomer negiah
Even if corona is a biological weapon that escaped (or was released), many have noted that having a "wet" market of live or raw animals for sale near the lab likely assisted in its spread.
Either way, people are being more careful about food because of corona.
People are also feeling forced to stock up on food — and not boiled bat or ever min hachai foods, but plain non-perishable foods like rice, flour, canned peas, and so on.
Leaving Eretz Yisrael Once You've Already Fixed Your Residence Here
Some people get so excited about a trip back to America (or whatever country they came from). Of course, it's understandable to get excited about meeting the sister you haven't seen for ages and any new nieces or nephews you haven't yet had the chance to squeeze.
But you sometimes hear some people get so excited about about the gashmiut aspects. Their whole face lights up and their eyes widen excitedly as they enthuse about...shopping! Restaurants! Really delicious pizza! And so on.
I understand this. Like I've mentioned here before, I had my own struggles with it. Not much, but enough to enable me to sympathize with others who really miss American gashimiut.
Yet rather than indulging it, it's best try to channel that excitement to more spiritual goodies and distance oneself from material indulgences.
Anyway, the point is that hardly anyone can leave Eretz Yisrael right now. (With all the border closures, there's hardly anywhere to go anyway. And coming back may be a problem too.)
Okay, it's not necessarily the halachic way, especially the alternating water-pouring done upon rising in the morning, but that's the whole point: You weren't careful about it or you didn't try to learn what you need to know about Jewish Law?
Now we're washing our hands all the time — even more than the halacha demands.
Parades & Events that "aren't exactly in the spirit of Torah."
We all know what events and parades he means.
In the current situation, NO ONE, no matter how liberal and degenerate, can organize a parade celebrating his or her degeneracy in Eretz Yisrael right now.
As for events...I still remember the Israeli response when one England's most famous performers came to give a concert in Israel.
His fans mobbed him with such enthusiasm that he immediately left Israel. (Good. He's not our type anyway.)
Halevai these same people would get so excited about seeing Rav Kanievsky (not mobbing him, but just feeling the same enthusiasm).
Another thing that pained me was the masses who showed up at Israeli soccer games. All that Jewish enthusiasm, singing, and unity — it couldn't be directed toward Torah?
Also, I've seen some weddings in which the bridal gown exposed way too much. Mixed dancing on the dance floor. Inappropriate entertainment, like dancers and stuff.
And even in some very frum weddings, the over-the-top extravagance (particularly when people really couldn't afford it but did it anyway) and the sometimes unrefined behavior and lax modesty — Hashem finally put His Foot down against it all.
In Israel right now, you could be the biggest billionaire, but you aren't having more than a wedding in your backyard with no more guests than your yard can hold — IF that. (Remember, the current protocol is to host no more than 10 people in one place.)
You'd think that at least in the frum community, that wouldn't be a problem, but cultural courtesies can a pose a challenge.
Afraid to offend, even some strongly committed frum people struggle when faced with a proffered hand for a polite handshake.
Others who enjoy seeking out loopholes to make life more comfortable postulate that it's permitted in professional situations or in any situation so as not to offend people.
I know baalot teshuvah who found it very difficult to tell, say, their favorite uncle they could no longer hug him — especially if he and/or other family members would find this no-hugging stance very hurtful.
One asked a rav about this, declaring she simply could not NOT hug her beloved uncle.
After a thoughtful moment, the rav said something like, "In that case, I won't tell you not to" or "I won't tell you it's forbidden."
She enjoyed his answer as it clearly informed her of the actual halacha, but did not force her out of her comfort zone.
Yet because the rav still made it clear to her, she realized it was a behavior she needed to stop, and she did eventually.
It's very easy to understand her discomfort & stated inability to conform to halacha. (She's a wonderful person, by the way, and has been fully frum for years now.)
Yet at the same time, hugging a man who is not your husband is forbidden – full stop.
And because of coronavirus, many people in her situation can no longer hug their favorite uncle, no matter how much of a family custom it is and no matter how platonic she feels toward him.
All the more so, all sorts of other touching that is completely forbidden.
And now, anyone who found it impossible to refuse a proffered hand due to halacha now refuses a proffered hand due to corona.
Getting Back to the Beautiful Basics
- ahavat Hashem (love of Hashem)
- simcha b'Torah (joy in Torah)
- our certainty that keeping mitzvot is both good & correct
- our knowledge that this is what Hashem wants for us
May we all succeed in doing true teshuvah from love.