One of you called me last week. She asked how I was feeling. When I answered her with my usual Baruch Hashem, which tells you nothing about how I am, she sounded somewhat confused. “You feel okay with COVID?”
“I don’t have COVID”, I told her. That was Weds night. Thursday found me very tired. Friday I barely got through pulling Shabbos together. I was coughing and sneezing non-stop. My husband was similarly not okay. Dizzy. Exhausted. We took tests on motzei Shabbos and discovered that we are both members of the club. Today (Thursday) finds us both better, but not really. Good friends and family have been sending us their love via food, vitamins, and help navigating the medical jungle. The latest brand of Corona, Omicron variant, is far milder, and in the vast majority of cases, more like an ordinary flu than like its previous mutations. This is certainly the case for us, for which we are most grateful.
That doesn’t mean that I have any idea of what to make of this, or the continuum of a pandemic that started two years ago, and at this point has not shown any sign of being off the page. Which brings me back to the Parshah.
The plagues had done their job. The Jews were out of Egypt. It looked like the end of the story, but it wasn’t. The Egyptians were after them. This didn’t just happen here; the heavenly counterpart of the Egyptians and the Jews were doing battle simultaneously. The spiritual forces that are unleashed by human choices are real. Every culture and country leaves a mark. The Egyptians were the movers and shakers of their time. They were devout believers in everything but G-d. They created an amoral culture where the only real ideology was being pro-degradation. As the Jews stood before the sea, the moment of judgement had come. The “force” of Egypt said to G-d, “these are idol worshippers (meaning the Egyptians) and those are idol worshippers (meaning the Jews). Why should those be saved, and these drown?” He wasn’t lying. Even those Jews who had done the korban Pesach, and had followed Moshe out to the desert were not perfect by anyone’s definitions. They worshipped idols. They were on the 49thlevel of spiritual blockage and defilement. Hashem’s answer was, "These are the children of Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov”
Those words tell you something about them and about yourself. They had not as yet left Egypt behind, and for them to go on to the next step of genuine redemption, they needed a miracle. They had potentials that a miracle could uncover. They needed the sea to split.
The times we live in are so difficult to interpret. No one could have prepared themselves for the level of physical and moral degradation that surrounds us and lives inside us. Are we redeemable? Yes, not only because of the great light that you can see in the midst of the darkness when you look for it in the faces of people you see every day, some of whom are the hidden tzadikim- the peple who care, reach out and demand no recognition. The people who quietly give, the rabbanim who answer the phone to strangers at unlikely hours, the people who give cookies from Ezer Mitzion to the patients in hospitals whose names are not known. They bring light, but there are also those who don’t.
No matter what you see, there is always the unseen presence of the Avos. The rays of light are more brilliant because of the great darkness, but we need miracles as much as the people who faced the Yam Suf did and we need to ask for them.
Sfas Emmes writes that when Hashem began the process of creating the world, everything he added to the world generated its own brand of concealment. Time, space, laws of nature hide Him just as much as they reveal Him. It was only with the exodus that His presence was revealed. The word “revealed” is important. He didn’t say renewed, generated, or any other word that would suggest that something new actually occurred. Everything has a connection to Hashem, that can be hidden or not even felt, but it’s still there. This is what the Nature Song (Pirkei Shirah) is about. He tells you that when we sang the song of the sea, we saw it split, everything in nature also sang. The song had to exist inside, and the right moment had to happen for it to come out.
You have to ask Hashem to bring you to the right moment.
You have to ask to know what to do. How to get the sea to split; how to surrender to Hashem, and to do whatever he wants of you at the same time is easy in this respect. There’s nothing really to do; even the decisions about vaccination become irrelevant once you get a positive reading. Of course, there are the basics, “don’t spread the joy. Keep the isolation regulations” etc. However, the fact remains that the story isn’t over. Ramban tells you about earlier times, when you could go to your local orthodox Navi and find out what you have to fix.
Today things are better. You go to Hashem Himself.
The sages equate the struggle for earning a living and for finding your mate to the struggle for the sea to split. You know people who are in front of the sea and don’t know where to turn. The physical darkness and the unending spiritual and moral battles are real.
Next week will be Tu BiShvat. The sap will begin to rise, and the trees will resume their cycle of growth. It’s a time of hope, and perhaps BEH a time for miracles.
Now the good stuff. I have been negligent about writing mazal tovs. Here goes; either you know her or you don’t. Mazal Tov to Tziporah Deutch on her engagement. I hope that more mazal tovs will follow for all of the miracles!