שירת שלום

Song of Peace

Rabbi David's Rosh Hashanah Sermon

09 Sep 2021 6:48 AM | Shirat Shalom (Administrator)

An Equal Opportunity Menace by Rabbi David Degani

That dreadful feared virus which has been reeking havoc  throughout the world has become a menacing threat with no end in sight. There is no country in the world which has not felt its wrath.

We as a congregation have been affected. Some of our members have have been infected with COVID-19. My own family was not spared from it either.  It’s no fun. 

Who needs wars? Who needs enemies? Who needs  mega natural disasters, tsunamis, earthquakes? 

Don’t get me wrong, Mother Nature is not giving us a break.  Hurricane Ida punished Louisiana with major flooding and misery as far north as New Jersey and New York. 

We are already counting more than 3 million COVID victims who lost their lives worldwide. Here in the US the number is in the hundreds of thousands and keeps rising.      

We human beings are considered to be the crown jewel of G-D’s creation. We are smart, sophisticated.  We know how to overcome challenges. We make, we  research, we invent. It only took us a year or so to manage to develop several vaccines for a complex virus like COVID-19.         

We thought we nipped it in the bud. We thought we humans now have the ultimate answer to overcome this dreadful pandemic. We thought we won. Get vaccinated and you are completely safe. Man made  or not, this nasty virus  was not going to get the best of us, we, the most sophisticated  creatures  in the known universe!  

Well, so far this tiny virus seems to fight back pretty effectively. There is a Famous Yiddish saying:  Man plans  and G-D laughs. 

We produced a vaccine to fight it and Mr. Covid 19 laughed and morphed itself. Enter Mr. Variant.  

 So... according to the CDC, if you are vaccinated, you are still susceptible to the variant,  you can still get sick but hopefully it will be an easier ride, Unless G-D forbid one has some underlying serious medical condition. 

Does anyone find this assessment comforting? 

Well then, how long are we protected by the vaccine? No one really knows. Three months? Six months? A Year? 

So, now we have booster shots for the rescue. They are good for how long?  Maybe once a year. No big deal, like a flu shot. One little booster shot  and you are good. They are already doing this in Israel where the COVID infection was a major problem.

But will that be enough? Will we eventually develop natural individual immunity or maybe,  as the terms goes, herd immunity? 

Who said ignorance is bliss?!! 

As a dear friend who is a doctor and one of our Shirat Shalom members told me, when scientists and researchers are looking for answers they sometimes miscalculate and misinterpret data.  As hypotheses and conclusions are adjusted and reassessed, recommendations to the public changes as research continues.  

This is just the nature of science trying to grapple with a new disease. 

Unfortunately, in the last year and a half we have experienced bitter disagreements, even ping pong accusations among scientists and politicians on the right course of action and policies, pulling all of us in so many directions. 

And this only makes finding solutions that much harder.    

No doubt, the vaccine with all its unknowns has saved thousands of lives. So, should we respect peoples’ refusal to vaccinate? 

Should we make people vaccinate against their will for the safety of the community? And what about face masks?

Solving these issues becomes more complex than first meets the eye. Is it a serious public safety issue pinned against the sacred American principle of individual freedom?

The delta variant as it is called is very contagious. While  most  young and reasonably healthy people recover relatively fast,  for  people with more serious health issues COVID-19 can be life threatening.  

Do we know for sure how to prevent COVID’s transmission? Are we sure about the efficiency of a piece of cloth which covers our mouth to prevent spreading of the virus? Especially when the eyes are not covered?  

All we hear are scientists and doctors in disagreement  about the exact way this virus behaves. All this  pulls us in different directions instead of uniting us in this fight. 

But what is the meaning of all this? Why do  people have to suffer from such a pandemic? And why now?

We Jewish people are always looking for reasons for things. We try to understand our universe, make sense of it. Living in an uncertain world, it helps us understand the world around us a little better.   

Maybe this pandemic with all of the suffering is a mirror of sorts. It is a mirror which allows us to look at ourselves through this chaos.  

Mirror mirror on the wall, do we  have the courage and the honesty to look at ourselves  and examine the way we are reacting under such a serious virus threat? To see how fragmented we are in our own country?

These debates turn into animosity between opposing opinions. It's a ping pong of claims and counterclaims turning  disagreements into discontent. It drives a wedge between people.  

How did the virus start? Who is responsible for it? Who should be punished? Why support such sensitive virus research in a foe like China? Is the vaccine an adequate answer? Is it effective? Should we wear masks? Should children wear masks? Should they wear them in school? And on and on and on and on…. 

These arguments only serve to move us away from the target, from finding a real solution. For everyone’s sake we need to find ways to compromise. Fighting together is much better than being pulled into all sorts of ideological directions. We need to look beyond our differences. A unified front is the best front.

This is the only way we will win against this dreadful menace. 

We are all in the same boat. The Corona Virus does not care about our political affiliation, our gender or race, rich or not so rich. This is an equal opportunity menace.   

Maybe the lesson here is that we human beings are more vulnerable than we thought. Under pressure and challenges we seem to have difficulties overcoming mistrust and cooperating with each other for the common good.   

There is a certain level of maturity to be true to ourselves yet flexible enough to listen and consider other possibilities. We all need to get there.   

COVID-19 reminds us that we are all human inhabitants of the same wonderful planet. We all have the same aspirations and challenges as we interact with each other. We all share a common density in ways we did not realize before. 

And finally we have learned  that in our future world, medical challenges, working together is not a luxury.  It’s a necessity. And maybe this seed of realization has been planted within us in the last year and a half. I will pray that it is so.

May this year of Tav Shin Pay Bet, 5782, be a better, sweeter, healthier and happier year than the  last one.  

May it be so.

Rabbi David

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