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Parshat Ki Tisa: Corona Virus in the News

by Chaya Rivka Zwolinski

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, the Jews are waiting at the foot of Mount Sinai for Moshe to return with the tablets, and they’re growing anxious. They miscalculate the time and day when Moshe is supposed to return. They start to get really worried. Then they start to get frantic and they panic. So, what do they decide to do? They build a golden calf.

They build the calf because their fear takes over and they can’t think clearly. They begin to think that they can’t directly get what they need from Hashem without an intermediary, in this case, an idol.

It’s not that they don’t believe in Hashem. They do. But their anxiety impacts on their ability to remember all the miracles that Hashem performed for them as He took them out of Egypt. They aren’t thinking about the crossing of the Red Sea. They aren’t thinking about the Manna that fell and sustained them in the desert. They don’t even have the presence of mind to remember that they are standing there at Mount Sinai, after having the tremendous experience of hearing Hashem Himself. Somehow, there is a disconnect. In their confusion, they felt that Hashem wasn’t close to them, and wasn’t sustaining them, and that they had to do something extraordinary to achieve what they needed. They had to act, even if the action flew in the face of logic.

In Likutey Moharan 62 Rebbe Nachman explains that some people believe that Hashem must work through an intermediary – intermediary force, action, or authority. They think that they can only earn a living if they have the exact right degree, the right connections, and the right job. Otherwise they don’t feel that they will be sustained. They think that a sick person can only be cured if he has the most famous doctor and the best medicine and the most proven or cutting-edge treatment. They forget that Hashem is really in charge.

Hashem created a world in which the system is that we must actually make hishtadlut, take material actions. We must take certain actions because the actions create the vessel into which Hashem pours what we need. So, we go to work in order to receive a paycheck which supplies necessary money to live. We keep up with the news on the Corona virus and try to ascertain if the trip overseas we’re planning is truly necessary.  We take some extra vitamins and wash our hands more often.

In truth, Hashem doesn’t need to go through these forces and these intermediary means. He can give us what we need directly. He can give us homes and fill them with food and protect us from even the most virulent sickness. Rebbe Nachman says that we must view these intermediary actions as important and absolutely necessary in and of themselves, however. That’s because our actions are actually advanced emunah-building exercises. The trick is to pray to Hashem directly to fulfill all our needs, even as we go about working, washing our hands, or whatever it is we must do. We must do our hishtadlut while remembering that it’s Hashem that is sustaining and providing for us.

May you have a day in which you really feel and believe that Hashem is there for you directly. Hashem is the True Healer.

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