Rabbi Marc D. Angel the founder of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals offers a mini theological “pep-talk” for maintaining our emotional and all other personal stabilities through these very difficult Covid days. As his basis for discussion, he points to the all-shattering, panic-laden dilemma faced by the Children of Israel when, in front of them they faced the impassable waters of the Reed Sea and behind them was the angry Egyptian force of charioteers and bowmen seething with the desire to exact revenge. The situation our ancestors faced did indeed seem hopeless and futile.
But we know how that situation resolved. Rabbi Angel offers some of its key learning nuggets. He recalls for us the writings of two scholars from whom we may find helpful instruction.
The late Professor Simon Rawidowicz in his fascinating essay, “Israel – the Ever-Dying People,” pointed out that it seems since the time of Abraham we’ve been worrying about our imminent demise. In each generation, going back many centuries, Jews thought that Jewish history was coming to an end. They worried about destruction at the hand of vicious enemies; they worried about exiles and expulsions; they worried about spiritual decline; they worried about assimilation. And yet, although we have been “ever-dying”, after 3500 years, Professor Rawidowicz reminds us, we are still alive!
The 19th century Rabbi Israel Salanter once quipped: “When people come to a wall that they can’t go through, they stop. When Jews come to a wall that they can’t go through–they go through.”
The reference to going through a wall brings Rabbi Angel to the dilemma at the Reed sea.
“When we… are facing enormous threats, we should worry. But we should worry in the right way.
“We should worry like Nahshon ben Aminadav (the first person to step into the Reed Sea) worried. We should not minimize the dangers and the risks; but we should deliberate on what is at stake and how we can overcome the difficulty. We should have confidence that if God has brought us this far, He will keep His promises to us and bring us ultimate redemption. We should be ready to act decisively, to think “out of the box”, to maintain forward momentum.”
Rabbi Angel adds that “perhaps our very awareness of the fragility of our existence has given us an added tenacity to survive, to find ways of solving problems.”
Of course, Rabbi Angel is correct. We – planet earth – will find a way to solve the Covid-19 problem. And then, after the threat to health has passed, we – the community of the GTA – will find a way to solve the problem of making Jewish education affordable to those families that seek it for their children.
Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.