It Was a Very Good Year
On Rosh HaShanah, we are judged regarding what will be in the year to come. With this in mind, let’s look back on the past twelve months. Was it a good year? Or was it cursed?
In the beginning of the year, the Land of Israel was blessed with an incredible abundance of rain, which completely filled up the Kinneret, a clear sign, according to the secrets of Torah, that Hashem is pleased with His People. Even in the eyes of the average citizen, since Israel depends on rain for its water supply, obviously the beneficent rainfall was a tremendous blessing. In the middle of the year, the Corona epidemic began and still continues, bringing chaos throughout the world, and forcing the Jewish People in the Holy Land to retreat into yet another quarantine. Then, just days ago, at the end of the year, came the historic “Abraham Agreement” and its obvious blessing of potential prosperity and peace. Thus the past year began and ended with great and obvious blessing. What happened in the middle? How are we to weigh the plague of Corona? In the humble opinion of this writer, Corana is a great blessing as well, perhaps even more monumental than its towering bookends of beneficial rain and peace.
The word Corona, as many people have noted, is associated with the word crown and kingship. You can claim that the choice of the name was mere coincidence, something meaningless which entered the head of a laboratory virologist when he or she first gazed at the crown-shaped COVID-19 molecules under a high-powered microscope. But for believers accustomed to perceiving the world from a theological point of view, it is obvious that the King of the World, the Creator of the Universe, He who brings all things into being by His decree, wants mankind to be more aware of His existence and Kingship over our lives. Certainly, there is a long list of wrongdoings for which humanity and modern society could be held in account, but without pointing to this transgression or that, it can simply be deduced that in sending the Coronavirus throughout the entire world, paralyzing life as we know it, from one country to the next - and showing us all how helpless we are in the face of the Edict of the King of all kings, Hashem wants us to start paying more attention to His supreme majesty and rule. He wants people to talk about His Kingship the way we banter obsessively about the news. He wants newscasters to proclaim His great deeds at the start of all broadcasts. He wants presidents, prime ministers, and kings to acknowledge His Guiding Hand all through their speeches, not merely at the end.
We know that everything Hashem does is good, but Corona? How can such a lethal virus which has killed hundreds of thousands of people the world over, crippled national economies, and left myriads without employment and income, be considered good? Before I answer, look at another seeming coincidence. We learn from Rabbi Akiva and his teacher, Nahum Eish Gamzu, that everything that the Almighty does is good, as the famous expression avows, “Gamzu l‘tova,” meaning “This also is for the good!” What is the name of the health expert whom the Government of Israel appointed to lead the battle against Corona? Professor Gamzu! “Gamzu l‘tova!” Corona is also for the good!
Ladies and Gentlemen – we have entered a new phase of global existence, and a new stage of World Redemption! Of course we should be happy! This is what devout Jews have been praying for every day for the past two-thousand years - Corona! The crowning of Hashem as King over all the world, exactly what we pray for on Rosh Hashanah. We hoped that the Geula would come in a less painful manner, but Hashem is not to blame for the fact that people didn’t take the Corona warning seriously. Instead, they arrogantly flouted the rules of social distancing and the wearing of masks. And still, after all of the deaths and damage, people continue in their stiffed-necked ways, not paying attention to the Source of the virus, living a grand illusion that a vaccine will be found, and that life will return to usual.
Face it my friends. The old game is over. Life will not return to the way it was. No more theater going. No more cheering from the bleachers when the star batter slams a homer in the bottom of the ninth. If scientists come up with a vaccine, then Hashem can send Corona 2 and Corona 3 if need be in order to achieve His aim. Or He can send uncontrollable fires, unstoppable hurricanes, or simply shut off electricity all over the world in an instant. The time has come to enter a new level of existence, and Hashem will bring it to pass whether we agree with His methods or not. What does this mean? What new level of Geula am I talking about? The New Level of Existence is that life must be lived with the constant awareness of the King. Not the once-weekly recognition of Hashem’s Kingship on Shabbat, but the minute-by-minute awareness of His Presence every day, all day long, all through the year, the way Jewish Life is supposed to be lived. In the past, mankind believed that the physical, material world was what mattered, and paid lip service to the spiritual, if at all - what Rabbi Kook terms, “non-believers with the Name of Hashem on their lips, and forgetters of Hashem in their hearts.” Now, with the advent of Corona, the ground rules have changed. We cannot return to what was – to a world filled with forgetters of Hashem. He simply won’t allow it. His patience has been expended. The 6000 years which He allocated to this world, is coming to an end. Either we catch on to the change – or He will have to teach us, in ever-more unpleasant ways, Heaven forbid.
How can we reach this new level? The darkness of the physical world is so thick, how can we learn to see the light of Hashem every moment of our lives? At the very beginning of the “Shulchan Aruch,” the Ba’er Hetev commentary brings clever advice from the Arizal. To always set Hashem in front of one’s eyes, a person should look at the world through the Four Letters of Hashem’s Name: Yud, Kay, Vav, Kay. Hard to do? Try writing the letters on the lens of clear eyeglasses and wear them wherever you go until you can picture the letters wherever you gaze – when you look at your wife and children, when you watch the news on TV, when you view the wonders of nature. This new and exalted level of awareness and uninterrupted connection is what Hashem demands from us now, for our good, the ultimate goodness a human can achieve, as King David says in the Psalm we have been reciting throughout the month of Elul: “Regarding You, my heart has said, ‘Seek you My Presence.’ Your Presence, Hashem, I do seek.”
Baruch Hashem that this new phase of Redemption has come! What an incredible blessing! The Mashiach is on the way! Blow the great shofar for our freedom from the darkness of the material world, from the blind pursuit after money, power, and fame; from the darkness of Exile; and from the plague of human arrogance and conceit. This Rosh Hashanah, let us open our ears and hear the call of Corona. Let us open our eyes and see the royal messengers of His Covod (read Covid), filling the sky, crowned with the tiaras of Corona. Sound the shofars! Welcome the King! Bow down before Him. Make every day Rosh Hashanah – the crowning of the King.