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!