COVID-19: NYC Quote of the Day 2020-06-05

May 25, 2020, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach - Blessings Were There for Us to Discover

I know that loads of people are speaking about the blessings of the coronavirus. They get to catch up on family time, institute regular family dinner, purify themselves of materialism, and appreciate the simpler things in life. But all of these gifts have come about despite – and not because of – the coronavirus.

Simply put, there is nothing good – zero – about the virus. It is a silent, vile, deadly killer. It has ripped loved ones from families, torn apart communities, and made ordinary citizens suspicious of one another. You go for a simple walk – mask on your face and gloves on your hands – and you see everyone coming in your direction as a potential super-spreader. Forget neighborly chatter or even a simple nodding of the head. You ignore the people and try and get as far away from them as possible, as if everyone is a potential mugger or criminal.

I have definitely found blessings in the last two months of lockdown. But I will never credit the killer coronavirus for any of this. All of these blessings were always present in our lives beforehand. They were there for us to discover, and never had to come about through 100,000 Americans losing their lives, including so many friends who have lost loved ones.

We Jews do not seek, or find any blessing in, suffering. To the extent that our people have been subject to persecution for thousands of years, it has been against our will. We do not relish dying for our faith. The Torah says, “And you should live through My commandments.” Martyrdom was forced upon us, against our will.

Suffering in life does not bless us but curses us. It leaves us jaded, broken, and cynical. Our job as human beings is to obliterate suffering from the earth. Our mission with the coronavirus is to find remedies that get people immediately off ventilators and save their lives and ultimately find a vaccine that protects us from this disgusting disease, with its prickly points that are more like darts than crowns.

The coronavirus has not brought out our best. Our best was always present and shines forth despite the darkness of the virus. Nurses and doctors and ambulance drivers were always there, making us healthy and saving us from disease. We just took it for granted and didn’t see it. The coronavirus did not give us a special power to behold. Rather, we chose to peer through the pandemic’s fog.

My fear is that if we ever credit the virus with good, if we’re misguided enough to find blessing in this cursed pandemic, then we will not fight it sufficiently. If we see it as bringing families together, then maybe we’ll get acclimated to lockdowns with no synagogues, no schools, and no laughter at restaurants. But if we hate it – yes, hate it – then we’ll summon every tool in our arsenal to annihilate it.

We all want to have stronger families, more passionate marriages, live less for money and materialism, and have children with better values. We all want to eat healthier, live healthier, and be more humble and loving. But we don’t need to be poked by the coronavirus to achieve any of this.

Judaism is a religion of life, not death. We bury our dead outside our cities. We pray for a time of eternal life when all humanity will be healed, when there will be an abundance of food and plenty, and peace will cover the earth so that the blessings of life can be absorbed, appreciated, and internalized forever.

Join me, will you, in hating the coronavirus. Join me in applauding and encouraging those with the skill sets to kill it. And join me in demanding from God that He keep his promises to humanity to give us an earth that is blessed with health and never cursed with illness. Join me in praying that humanity, as one, indivisible family, will purge this scourge from the earth so that we’ll witness children laughing, husbands and wives embracing, and communities celebrating in an era of eternal fellowship and peace.
Edited for redundancy, grammar, and emphasis
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