S P E C I A L S

For the week ending 28 March 2020 / 3 Nisan 5780

The Frog Virus?

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library Kaddish

Thoughts on the current coronavirus pandemic

If anyone would have told you a half-a-year ago that in a few months, China — the first, second or third (depends on who you ask!) most powerful nation in the world — would be closed up, that their economy would be in freefall and that their citizens would be dying by the thousands — not only that, but that the whole world was being sucked into the problem involuntarily — the only plausible scenario that would have made any sense to explain it would have been some kind of a war. Six months ago the only conceivable reason for being able to imagine such a thing happening would have been, at worst, a nuclear war, or, at "best," a chemical war between the mightiest nations in the world. And yet all of the above — plus more — has been achieved without any warfare — no nuclear, chemical or biological attacks — it has all happened because of the “flu.” It sounds absolutely nonsensical. But it is our present reality. It sounds absolutely improbable — completely beyond imagination. And yet it is true.

No one can possibly say for sure why this is happening and why it is happening right now. But I keep coming back to a thought from Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch in his commentary on the Torah. He asks one of those questions that are so simple and, yet, I never seem to think of them! He asks: Why, during the second of the Ten Plagues, did G-d send frogs, of all things? After all, frogs are not very threatening. Rabbi Hirsch answers that that is exactly the reason — frogs are ridiculous! They don't hurt anyone, they are not dangerous, and yet they brought the mightiest empire in the world at the time to its knees. Frogs! Why? To show the Egyptians the absurdity of believing that they are masters over their own strength and power. The Torah calls such a philosophy, "kochi v'otzem yadi" — "my strength and the might of my hand," see Deuteronomy 8:17. And yet, comical frogs managed to dismantle the might of the Egyptian empire — and all without having to go to war.

It seems to me that what is happening now is eerily similar. The whole world is grinding to a halt — economies all over the world are being enormously damaged, people are dying all over the world, millions of people are being put into isolation and quarantine — and all because of this “flu.” It is as if this has become the Plague of Frogs of our time. Maybe, just maybe, G-d is letting us know that He's in charge. Not us. Yes, human beings can destroy the world many times over with their awesome nuclear power and their even larger egos. But right now it is not nuclear fallout that everyone is concerned about. It is finding the right vaccination and treatment for a virus that should not seem to be affecting us — at least not in this horrific manner. And yet it is.

And all this is happening in the month of Adar — a month that symbolizes our complete and absolute reliance on G‑d. And it is the month that comes right before the Festival of Passover — the festival that is referred to as the Festival of Freedom.

Who knows? If we listen carefully enough, could that be the footsteps of the Mashiach that we can hear?

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