The world is amidst a frightening health crisis. In China, the normal functioning of society and its personal interactions have come nearly to a halt, with people remaining isolated from one another, lest they contract the dreaded virus. The repercussions on global markets have created great tension between corporations and countries. Our ‘global village’, that the different countries and regions comprise, has been fragmented, forcing peoples to retreat in self-preservation, behind barriers that now separate them.
The frustration of the brilliant physicians and researchers in the medical field who can’t seem to stifle the epidemic nor treat the disease effectively, accentuates the seemingly impregnable power of the forces of nature that we often delude ourselves into thinking can be controlled by man’s scientific and technological genius.
The speculation that this virus may have traveled from animal to human through the wanton consumption of items that are not naturally suited for humans, emphasizes man’s need to contemplate the indulgences they often permit themselves to pursue so mindlessly and carelessly.
What is ‘our’ antidote to this deadly situation?
The Torah records G-d’s promise, ...והסירותי מחלה מקרבך, ‘...and I shall remove all illness from your midst’. (שמות כג כה)
But there is a caveat.
ועבדתם את ד' אלקיכם, You shall worship Hashem, your G-d.
This is the verse the Rambam quotes when recording the command that we are to pray to G-d each day.
The great Rebbe Nachman of Breslov elaborates on the verb used for prayer עבודה, Service, and its implication of עבדות, servitude.
Rebbe Nachman advises that in order to become a true servant solely to G-d, one must avoid three pitfalls.
Do not scorn any person. (אבות ד ג)
Do not become enslaved to negative attitudes towards others. When we are judgmental of our fellow Jew we become shackled to our own weaknesses and biases, creating unnecessary division and contention. Wasn’t it the brothers of Yosef whose misperceptions lead them to eventually declare before Yosef, “We are ready to be your slaves”. (בראשית נ יח)
One who is subservient to G-d alone will never succumb to prejudice and hate.
I am Hashem, your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, מבית עבדים, from the house of slavery. (שמות כ ב)
Egypt was a land sullied with idolatry. The belief in a system of natural forces that demanded allegiance and subservience lest their destructive powers be unleashed, enslaved a populace to defeatism and hopelessness.
Lastly, Rebbe Nachman teaches, the need not to be enslaved to one’s own instincts and impulses, embodied in the principle known as שמירת הברית, Preservation of the Covenant, which relates to all carnal pleasure, not just to the most powerful one of intimacy. One who loses control to those drives is doomed to being enslaved to forces that only become stronger and unconquerable every time one submits to its lure.
Tefilla is not simply about sincerely appealing to G-d for His intervention and protection. It is our total submission to His will, knowing that only when we break the chains of slavery to our ego; our blind belief in all that is material; our allegiance to our comforting drives, that we can be assured He will embrace us in His loving and protective arms.
This, Rebbe Nachman explains, is the process by which Hashem provides His care.
ועבדתם, If you will become a true servant, וברך את לחמך ואת מימיך, He shall bless your bread and your water, infusing the physical world that provides your sustenance, its secret antibodies that are released through the דבר ד', the word of G-d, that infuses the natural world with His presence, והסירותי מחלה מקרבך, removing all illness from your midst, handily warding off the viruses that can only invade a world devoid of G-d. (ליקוטי מוהר"ן תנינא תקעו)
Our antidote is the opposite of isolation - it is reaching out to our fellow man, with understanding, empathy and love. We must lower the ‘barriers’ we place between each other.
We must shirk putting our faith in human intervention. Certainly we must do our hishtadlus, our due physical efforts, but always remember our efforts successes is only contingent on the word of G-d.
We must ‘sterilize’ our environment, not only with Purell, but more significantly by sanitizing our eyes, our hearts, our souls from the influences that pull us into the gravity of earth and prevent us from soaring on high.
If we succeed, we will gain the immunity to bask in His presence and flourish robustly, safely living inspired and enriched lives.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן