CoronaVirus – Are We Being Called Into God’s Office?

by Shannon Nuszen

I once worked with a very wealthy business man who was a huge supporter of Israel. He gave generously to many Jewish organizations all around the world. Because of his intense generosity, he was naturally approached by every organization you can imagine. But, he didn’t give to just anybody, and he struggled greatly with his decisions on who and what to support.  Feeling real pain over where to direct his efforts, he would many times say “I feel like I’m fighting a raging fire with a water gun”.  So, he heeded the advice of his personal Rabbi.

His personal Rav saw his struggle over each decision, and relieved his anxiety by telling him to focus his efforts on moving the Jewish world forward. What will move the Jewish people forward? Supporting the return of Jews to the land of Israel, redeeming the land, promoting unity of the Jewish people, and Torah learning.

In an answer to a request for funding from an outreach rabbi whom he loved, I saw this new focus in action.

His response was: “I love you, but I have to focus on what I believe God wants for the Jewish people. And I believe that’s to bring his people home. Although I understand the outreach [redacted] does is important, I cannot knowingly support making Jews more comfortable in galut by building institutions in remote areas all around the world, when they need to be home.”

As this virus took hold of our country, we have suddenly been stripped of our comforts even here in Israel.

My dear nephew posted a picture to our family group of his shul, lights out and chains on the door. In some places, security forces were forced to weld shut the doors of shuls and places people gather to daven. We are forbidden to gather anywhere. No social gatherings, and even forbidden to form a minyan.

Beit Knesset in Neria is locked with lights out during Coronavirus pandemic. Photo by: Ari Averbuch

My nephew compared looking at his locked shul to times when we could only look at the Kotel, but were forbidden to touch it.

But, I’m reminded of the mission I learned from the generous donor and his Rabbi. Perhaps even within Israel we’ve become too comfortable with what we’ve created ourselves. Our shuls, our simcha halls, our many gathering places around Israel.

I’m also reminded of the many events that have occurred over the recent years. For the first time in I don’t know how long, our strongest ally (America) has a president that is advocating for sovereignty over all of Israel, and for Jerusalem (not Tel Aviv) to be our capital and the focus of Jewish life.

Protesters bring signs depicting Trump’s support of Israel at demonstration against the destruction of Amona, a settlement in Samaria. 

Yet even with this powerful support and push, we hesitate. 5 Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria were evacuated, and homes destroyed since Trump became president.

A horrific attack occurred on Har Habayit, and for weeks the site was controlled only by Israel. The Arab world actually boycotted going to the site, refusing all offers by Israel to ascend the mount again unless they removed the metal detectors that were put up to stop the slaughter of more Israeli’s in this holy site. Muslims boycotting the Temple Mount?!?!?! We were being handed Har Habayit on a silver platter, and what did we do? We removed the metal detectors and begged them to return and take back the site.

Har Habayit. Photo by: Shannon Nuszen

And just as an opportunity to apply sovereignty over Judea & Samaria presented itself, we hesitated, debated, and created reasons about why it was a bad idea. The thought of redeeming the land, and taking possession of the land Hashem has given us was too uncomfortable.

And now… all of our comforts have been removed. Jerusalem has the highest concentration of the horrible virus. Police blockades are set up all around the city. We can only look at Jerusalem, but cannot enter. And those inside Jerusalem, can’t leave their homes. Once again, even from within Jerusalem we can only look at the Kotel, but are forbidden to touch it.

Yet, I still see the positives. Israel is listed as the safest country to be in the midst of this pandemic. Israel is a leading force in medical research to fight the virus. Israel shut its borders quickly, ridding the land of foreigners. Most significant to me was the thousands of Christian tourists and missionaries that were here, an instant reminder of Hashem’s commandment to rid idolatry from our midst that we recite in our daily davening. Aliyah is still being permitted to Jewish people anywhere in the world. The defense minister has taken charge of the mission to bring all citizens of Israel home on rescue flights. Citizens already in the country are forbidden to leave, some even being held here against their will in order to protect them.

Something about all of this feels very biblical. Nothing feels as if it’s in our control right now.

Perhaps Hashem is pushing us to realize what’s important again? Where should our focus be? The first step in this was to confine us to our homes. We are forced to focus on our nuclear family, our only permitted contact. And life won’t return to usual overnight. Reports say that restrictions will be lifted very gradually. We’ll slowly regain normalcy and be given access to the world again.

What will we do with that? What is Hashem’s message in all of this?

I personally felt our gatherings in shul have become more about social interactions, especially while watching all of the traveling around talking during davening and the groups who break off for kiddish clubs in the middle.

And our families. So many divorces. So many issues with children going off the derech.

We are forced to daven alone. One on one with Hakodesh Baruku. We are forced to face the conflicts within our homes, talk to each other, and resolve difficulties in our relationships.

For me, this pandemic feels like a wake up call. It feels like Hashem is saying. “Step into my office. Just you and me. Let’s fix the relationship between us, and get your house in order.”

Because thats what feels like the first step is in order for us to be ready for Hashem’s plan in moving us forward.

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