Erev Yom Kippur I received an email from a yeshiva in New York, which said, “The Satan is trying mightily to close shuls and mosdos ha Torah. We are on the verge once again of not being allowed to gather for tefilla or learn in our bais medrash.”
Shortly afterward, I received an email from another yeshiva, which said, “The Department of Health has agents who are observing the community. On Tuesday they will decide about restrictions.”
In a statement issued this week, Agudath Israel of America noted the attitude of government officials: “New York’s public health officials … need to reflect on their approach. Shaming is not a legitimate or effective tool. No other community is singled out and stereotyped as the Orthodox are. That … needs to change.”
My friends, we are living in an alien world, a world resembling Mitzraim, from which our ancestors were freed only after they “groaned … and cried out. Their outcry … went up to Hashem. Hashem heard their moaning, and Hashem remembered His covenant with Avraham, with Yitzchak and with Yaakov.” (Shemos 2:23ff)
We are coming to the great showdown. The surge of evil in the world calls upon us to grasp with an ever-tighter grip the rope of Torah extended from Shomayim, which is our only hope for survival. “Bifroach rashaim … When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of iniquity blossom, it is to destroy them till eternity.” (Tehilim 92)
Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch provides a masterful description of how we are supposed to relate to the Ribono shel Olam, the Master of the World. (Dvarim 32:11) From this I believe I understand why the Torah could tell us that Hashem carried us “on the wings of eagles….” (Shemos 19:4) when He took us out of Mitzraim.
“The eagle does not bear his young aloft when they are sleeping or in a passive condition. Rather, first he arouses his nest, and then spreads his wings -- not under his young -- but above them. Wakefully and energetically, they take off and fly up to alight on the outspread wings awaiting them. By free, conscious and brave decision, they entrust themselves to him so that he should bear them aloft. The eaglets must fly up and out of the nest by themselves and set themselves on the wings. So did G-d first awaken the spirit of His people and, through training, invest them with the courage to entrust themselves, by free, conscious decision, to His guidance.”
“Hashem alone guided them, and no alien god beside Him.” (Dvarim 32:12)
This word “alone” refers to Hashem, Who is by definition separate from all of His creations. But it also implies that we, Am Yisroel, His children, are alone in the world.
The word “alone” in Hebrew is “badad,” which has the same root as the word “bidud,” a word one hears constantly on the news in Israel. “Bidud” means “isolation.” The current plague requires us to isolate ourselves. This comes to remind us that we are “am levadad yishkon, a nation that dwells alone.” (Bamidbar 23:9).
Someone said to me yesterday, “Let Corona just go away.” I do not think Corona is going away so fast. In Mitzraim, the plagues came to separate us from the culture of Egypt so that Hashem could take us out of there and we could receive the Torah in purity and unity – unity with each other and unity with Hashem.
I believe this plague is telling us: separate yourself from the alien culture around you because Hashem is coming to take you out and present the Torah to you once again.
My friends, we have a hiding place. We can run to the sukkah!
This is where we exist in isolation, protected only by G-d, where we join our avos, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon and Dovid, who paved a way for us to cleave to G-d with wholehearted purity.
This is all we need!
“Ana Hashem Hoshia na! Ana Hashem hatzlicha na ….”
“Please Hashem save now! Please Hashem bring success now!”
“Hoshana v’hoshiana na! …. Save now and bring salvation now!”