These days, during the challenge of the Coronavirus pandemic, any person with the slightest bit of emuna thanks Hashem profusely for every new day of life, even every moment of life. As things are getting shut down by the minute, we are more and more limited in our choices. But, there is one important choice we can make, where we earn the reward of a good and healthy life, just as our sages promise. Enjoy today's uplifting podcast and have a healthy and lovely Shabbat!
Today's video podcast not only gives advice on how to keep body and soul healthy in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, but shows that King David dealt with a terrible plague in his time that his son King Solomon knew all about, which the holy Tanna Onkolos calls "Kurhana". See for yourself, and see how King David stopped the plague as well as a 950-year promise from Rashi about how to defeat this disease...
In this week's Torah portion, Moses begs Hashem to forgive the nation of Israel for the sin of the golden calf and says, "please pardon them of their sin, Hashem, for they are a stiff-necked people." (Exodus 34:9)
This week, we also read "Parshat Parah" (Numbers, Chapter 19), the episode of the Red Heifer, where we learn that every power in the universe can both purify or contaminate, depending on how it's used.
Look how the Torah reflects current events:
A stiff neck is the Torah's way of saying stubborn. Like any other character trait, stubbornness can go either way, for good or for evil. Throughout the ages, our righteous people have been so stubborn in their faith that they preferred to endure torture and death in sanctification of Hashem's Name rather than compromise their emuna. On the other hand, the riff-raff of our people have always stubbornly refused to recognize Hashem's monarchy and His Divine Providence, choosing the path of publicly and blatantly trampling the Torah's laws, from the time of Moses to the present.
Hashem is not some old lady in the sky that can do nothing against the Corona Virus, Heaven forbid. The first principle of our emuna is the "He alone did does and will do every deed." The Coronavirus, like all powers of evil, are emissaries of the Almighty and the executioners of stern judgment in the world. But like all powers, they can be harnessed to do good as well. For example, if the Coronavirus succeeds in bringing people to assess themselves and cast aside evil ways while striving to get close to Hashem, then it is intrinsically good. In fact, the Coronavirus could be one of the key catalysts of Moshiach. Here's how:
Here in Israel, there have always been problems of government-sanctioned breaches of Torah. Although every person has the right of free choice to do as he or she pleases, they will ultimately be called to account for their deeds. But, the Government of Israel, who bases its right to the Land of Israel by virtue of the Torah, has no right to trample the Torah. The Ministry of Culture and Sport never interfered with stadiums and theaters that publicly desecrated the Shabbat, but the Corona virus is putting an end to that: the latest Health Department Directives are now prohibiting stadium and theater attendance and all many other mass public desecrations of Shabbat. The Government has always sanctioned the lewd public displays of debauchery known as the Pride Parades, and that too won't happen anymore.
Before our very eyes, the amenities of the material world of indulgence, especially here in Israel, are shattering into smithereens. The stock market here went down a whole 7% today, Ben Gurion airport is a ghost town, and restaurants and night clubs are empty. El Al has put 80% of its work force on forced vacation.
The medical world, both here and abroad doesn't have an answer to Coronavirus. No one can outsmart Hashem, especially the politicians. In Israel, we're still without a government, for Hashem is showing that there's no salvation in the politicians of both right and left, all of whom care about nothing except grabbing power. Let's hope that they soon wake up and realize that there is no power but Hashem.
Hashem wants to bring Moshiach, but our stiff-necked people over here who think that we can live without Hashem and His Torah, Heaven forbid, are now getting a wake-up call. Unfortunately, our history shows that not many people will wake up; our Torah tells us that only 1 out of 5 left Egypt; the other 4 denied Hashem's miracles, Divine Providence and the redemption from Egypt so they stayed behind and perished during the three days of darkness.
But here's the good news, both in the material world that is tailored to reflect the spiritual world and in the spiritual world itself. The same power of destruction has the power of healing. Atomic power can either illuminate a city or blow it into oblivion. The same virus that kills can be harnessed into a life-saving vaccine. The Midrash, Gemara and the Zohar all tell us how even Ashmedai, the king of demons and the mafia boss of the dark side, what we call the Sitra Achra, was harnessed to do good.
The Zohar tells us that Ashmedai taught King Solomon an important Halacha, namely, that a person must pay full price for a mitzva, because if a mitzva is free, the dark side can hijack it and contaminate it.
What's more, the Midrash Aicha tells us that Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai went to Rome in attempt to convince Caesar to rescind the harsh edicts against the Jews in the Land of Israel; this was a mission impossible. But, because Rebbe Shimon was such a perfect tzaddik, Ashmedai came to his aid. Ashmedai penetrated and possessed the brain of Caesar's daughter. She went crazy screaming day and night and making the palace in Rome unbearable. One day, she started screaming over and over, "Bring me Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai" – Caesar summoned Rebbe Shimon, who warned Caesar that in order to cure his daughter, all the glass in the palace will be shattered. Caesar agreed. Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai whispered in the ear of Caesar's daughter and told Ashmedai to leave her, but allowing him to break all the palace glass instead. The daughter was cured and the evil edicts were annulled.
The holy Ariza'l explains in his classic work "Etz Hachaim" that Ashmedai has the power of doing good or evil because he comes from the klipa of Noga, which can go either way, for it separates between holiness and the opposite.
The world at large and Israel in particular are suffering now from coronavirus and in a near panic. Panic doesn't solve anything. Read this week's Torah portion and you'll see that Moses is defending us by calling us "a stiff-necked people", in Hebrew, עם קשה עורף,which has a numerical value of 871. And guess what, if we say that "Coronavirus is Ashmedai", in Hebrew that would be נגיף הקורונה אשמדאי, also a numerical value of exactly 871. This is a clear message that when we're too stiff-necked to do teshuva and to strengthen our emuna while throwing away the lusts and follies of this world, Hashem sends a messenger like Ashmedai and the Coronavirus to soften our stiff-necks.
Why wait for Ashmedai and the Coronavirus to wake up? Why not start talking to Hashem, praying in your own words, praising His Name and asking to get close to Him? Hashem taught Moses that 515 prayers, "V'etchanan" has the power to rescind harsh judgments and overturn nature, and that's the way Hannah – who was childless – prayed to have children. 515 is not only the Gematria, numerical equivalent of תפלה - tefilla, prayer, but also of שירה - shira, songs of praise, as well as ואתחנן - v'atchanan, pleading to Hashem. These are the spiritual remedies of נגיף הקורונה – the Coronavirus, which by no small coincidence is exactly 515.
It's time for emuna. The barometer of emuna is one's desire to pray. Emuna and teshuva are what we need now, because Moshiach is fast on the way, as we see that the entire world is trembling from fear of the Coronavirus. Don't wait until it's too late. Soon, the whole world will be trembling from fear of Hashem, when He reveals Himself with miracles that defy nature and hasten the Geula, our full redemption, speedily and in our days, amen. Stay healthy and have a wonderful Shabbat!
In a mad rush to prevent the global pandemic of coronavirus, researchers are looking for all types of defensive measures, such as boosting people's immune systems and looking for antibodies that prevent the penetration of coronavirus into healthy human cells. The difficulty of coronavirus is that its protein-like spikes serve as daggers that pierce and penetrate healthy cells. From a spiritual standpoint, though, I would take an offensive measure, and use a spiritual equivalent of what the pharmaceutical world calls antivirals, substances that fight off viral infections by attacking the viruses themselves. The power that knocked down the impregnable walls of Jericho can surely knock down the walls of the coronavirus.
The advantage of antivirals is that they attack different parts of the virus and thereby prevent it from entering cells friendly cells. Antivirals weaken the virus even before they destroy it and that way slow or even stop its power of infecting healthy cells.
The problem with the coronavirus is that its attack spikes, in addition to being offensive in nature, protect the coronavirus cell wall and therefore make it almost impregnable. That's why researchers are trying to protect against coronavirus rather than destroy it, which is a task no one has a strategy for.
If you remember our emunabeams podcast from this past Feb. 9, we showed how the root of the epidemic was in heresy and lack of emuna. I suggest you back and hear that podcast.
Hashem runs the world measure-for-measure. If we look at the world through emuna eyes, we can see a spiritual protection and even solution for destroying the apparently impregnable viral wall, which is actually a double fortification. Viruses have an outer wall of a protective protein coating underneath the spikes that seals the whole virus cell and then an inner wall called a nucleo-capsid that protects the viral DNA.
The coronavirus double-protective walls are tough to destroy. But let's look back in history. Israel coming out of Egypt had no chance or no military strategy for penetrating the Walls of Jericho. Joshua had no idea what to do. He poured his heart out to Hashem in such powerful prayer that Hashem illuminated his brain with a prophecy that manifest itself in what we know today as the Aleinu prayer, a prayer that we pray three times daily, every day, all year long including Shabbat and holidays.
The Chofetz Chaim writes in the Mishna Berura that the Aleinu prayer must be said with tremendous awe and intent, because the Almighty with all of His Heavenly Legions listen and respond, "Happy is such a nation" (Mishna Berura, Orach Chaim 132:2, letter chet). Let's ask ourselves: there are other extremely important prayers, yet here, the Chofetz Chaim gives us marching orders of "tremendous awe and intent". Why Aleinu in particular?
Encapsulated in the Aleinu prayer is the entire Jewish faith, the task on earth of the Jewish People, both in regard to themselves and in regard to the entire world, and the secret to Jewish success and survival, as we'll soon see.
Jericho was virtually impregnable. Its high and thick walls could not logically be breached with the weaponry of the time. What's more, its residents were fierce fighters. Joshua saw no rational chance of victory. He therefore said this prayer seven times, each time he circled the city. And, as the Chassam Sofer explains, after he circled the city for the seventh time, Hashem personally knocked down the walls of Jericho and delivered the city into Joshua's hands.
The Dark-side forces of Jericho were so great that its conquering could only be done through the miracle of Divine intervention.
The same goes for coronavirus.
The Jewish People are the People of Emuna in the Land of Emuna with the task of spreading the light of emuna around the globe. Since Aleinu is the prayer of emuna, the Chofetz Chaim placed so much importance on it.
Let's now see how the Aleinu prayer is encapsulation of the entire Jewish faith, the task on earth of the Jewish People, both in regard to themselves and in regard to the entire world, and the secret to Jewish success and survival:
- Encapsulation of the Jewish faith: as the Rambam says in the first principle of Emuna, Hashem is Creator and Director; he alone did does and will do every deed. Aleinu tells us that He is the "Master of all", the One who "forms all of creation," that "He is our G-d, there is none else," and that "He will reign forever and ever."
- The task on earth of the Jewish People: our individual task is to internalize the principles of our faith, which we mentioned in the previous point of "Encapsulation". Aleinu obligates this, as it says, "And you shall know today, and internalize in your
heart, that Hashem is the only God, in the Heavens above and on Earth below. There is no other." Not only must we know this, we must review emuna every day, even after we internalize it.
- The Jewish People's task in regard to the world: as "Light unto the nations," it's our job to do everything we can so that "all living flesh to call Your name." We do that by spreading emuna. This is the correction of the world, Tikkun Olam, which is our solemn responsibility.
- The secret to Jewish success and survival: we have no power on our own. A Jew must know that "we put our hope in You, Hashem our G-d, to soon see the glory of Your strength". Hashem is the source of all our strength and all our abundance. There is no one but Hashem!
Joshua's emuna and trust in Hashem, as conveyed in the powerful Aleinu prayer, had the power of knocking down the impenetrable walls of Jericho. Similarly, this prayer when said with fervor can knock down the walls coronavirus that threaten us. Whatever you do, don't chase out of shul at the end of davening. Say Aleinu with all your heart and you too will see Hashem's miraculous salvation for you, your family our people Israel and all of humanity that throws away its idols and heresy, very soon, amen!
To prevent a panic attack, it's important to remember how and why it's happening. King David, the greatest psychotherapist who ever lived, understood the human soul better than anyone else. He said, "Happy is the person whose strength is in You" (Psalm 84:6). In other words, the moment a person realizes that he or she cannot handle a situation on their own, and they turn to the Almighty for strength, then they immediately neutralize panic and negativity. Understand that panic comes from the evil inclination, to disarm and disable a person so that he or she cannot serve Hashem. Our sages in the Gemara teach that no one has the power to overcome the evil inclination on their own. We all in varying degrees are susceptible to panic, but we overcome it as soon as we throw all our problems into Hashem's lap. In the same vein, Rabbi Chaim of Volozyn osb"m said that the spiritual ploy of overcoming any fear or anxiety is simple to remember and repeat ein od milvado, "There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem!"
Step One of preventing a panic attack is to remember Hashem,
Step Two is to repeat "ein od milvado, There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," seven times.
Step Three is to ask the Almighty for help - call his Name out load, be vocal, even yell or scream if that helps you.
Step Four is to get the endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing. How? Try one of these options:
a. Do as many pushups as you can;
b. Run around the block or jog in place for two minutes;
c. Do ten burpees.
Step Five is to take ten deep breaths, inhaling as deep as you can and exhaling as slow as you can.
Step Six is to sniff the aroma of lavender oil, which is known for being soothing and stress-relieving. It can help your body relax.
Step Seven is to call a time out, sit or walk in a quiet place, and speak to Hashem and once again, ask for His help and guidance; He'll be glad to give it to you.
Panic and the above 7 steps are mutually exclusive. But, as preparing for war, we must practice maneuvers. Don't wait for a panic attack to implement the above steps - you can do them anytime and they'll make you feel better. Yet, once we never forget Hashem and we always remember "ein od milvado, There is nothing or no one but You, Hashem," we safeguard ourselves against any and all sorts of panic, fear and anxiety. Try it - it works and has been tested under the most extreme of challenges. Every blessing, LB
"…and you were tired and exhausted and did not fear G-d." (Deuteronomy 25:18).
The Torah doesn't waste a single letter, much less a single word. So why is the Torah seemingly repetitious in the above passage when it says "tired and exhausted"? Wouldn't one description of fatigue have been sufficient here?
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan I:67.8) that when a person prays without intent in his heart, he arrives to a state of "soul fatigue", when the slightest spiritual tasks seem to be heavy burdens. This tiredness of the soul causes a weakening of the bones.
In fact, virtually all of our physical problems stem from spiritual problems. Your nutritionist and your osteopathic surgeon may be baffled at your bone problems, especially if you eat naturally and consume a lot of calcium. This is the very reason why a truly holistic health coach must be abreast in the health of your soul as well as in the health of your body, as Rebbe Nachman reveals to us.
The remedy for this soul fatigue is to pray with such fervor and intent to the extent that he can feel the prayer in all his bones, as it is written, "All my bones shall say, Hashem, who is like You?" (Psalm 35:10). Such prayer, explains Rebbe Nachman, revives the soul and thereby solves the problem of soul-fatigue. In addition, it adds vitality to the bones.
Simply speaking, prayer with strong intent is spiritual calcium.
With Rebbe Nachman's teaching in mind, we can now understand the above passage much better. The two adjectives "tired and exhausted" are by no means superfluous. Whereas "exhausted" indicates physical fatigue, "tired" comes to describe a tiredness of the soul, or soul fatigue. We can also readily understand what the Midrash teaches, that the spiritually-weak lagged behind and outside the protective Cloud of Glory and therefore became easy prey for Amalek, because they had bad cases of spiritual osteoporosis.
A person's physical fatigue frequently stems from spiritual fatigue. One doesn't tire when he or she is doing something that they truly enjoy. To go a step further, the lack of desire that leads to spiritual fatigue also leads to sadness and depression. Wherever there are sadness and depression, the Divine Presence takes leave. In spirituality, there is no void. When the Divine Presence leaves, Amalek and the forces of evil descend on a person and overcome him immediately.
According to Rebbe Nachman's advice, there's a remedy for soul-fatigue, a way for one to rescue himself from the clutches of Amalek, the evil inclination, sadness and depression, which all go together since negative emotions stem from the evil inclination. How? A person should simply begin to pray with enthusiasm and with heartfelt intent until he can feel the warmth of the prayer in his entire body. If there's no "heart" in the prayer, and it's lip-service alone, then on a spiritual plane, one's heart becomes distanced from one's soul, a phenomenon that causes soul-fatigue. Under the principle of "divide and conquer", the more one's heart and soul are separated, the greater the soul-fatigue and the easier it is for the evil inclination - "Amalek" - to attack and subdue a person.
The good news is that anyone can rescue himself from Amalek and from soul-fatigue. Let him start by reciting one of his daily blessings with joy and enthusiasm. Imagine how miserable life would be without eyes; now, recite pokeach ivrim with all the joy in the world. Thank G-d, if you're reading this, you haves eyes! How fortunate you are to have such a wonderful gift from Hashem. Imagine how embarrassing life would be if you had to walk around all day long wearing a dusty burlap sack with holes for the head and the arms and nothing more. Now, get dressed and recite malbish arumim with such fervor and happiness, really thanking Hashem from the bottom of your heart.Try it - you'll feel better in an instant. This is the way we should approach all of our prayers - observing our blessings, taking nothing for granted and showing our gratitude with enthusiasm. This is the basis of the type of fervent, enthusiastic prayer that not only adds energy to our souls but cures our bones. Try it and have a lovely Shabbat!