Weekly Sermon

Weekly Sermon

NOACH 5781

“Everything happens for a reason. Really?”

The past 7 months have turned our world upside down with this Coronavirus pandemic. Worldwide, more than a million people have died. The Jewish people have lost some important leaders. Do you know that—after all is said and done, after all the gloves and masks and social distancing—do you know what was the most significant factor determining whether you got the virus or not? It depended on where you lived!

This summer, the Dominican Republic had nearly 8,000 cases, but just across the border on the same island, Haiti had only about 100. In Indonesia thousands died, in Malaysia just across the water, only about 100. How come? The NY Times reported: Most experts agree that there may be no single reason for some countries to be hit and others missed. The answer is likely to be some combination of factors, as well as one other mentioned by researchers: sheer luck! 

 With this in mind, when things go wrong in our lives, there is one question not to ask and one answer not to give. The question not to ask is: Why me? Well why anyone? Why is a 1-year-old baby hooked up in a hospital pediatric oncology center? There are things in life over which we have absolutely no control. So, let’s stop explaining the unexplainable by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” Just ask Kate Bower. 

Kate Bower—a professor at Duke University—was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35 and wrote the best-selling book: Everything Happens for a Reason…and Other Lies I’ve Loved. She’s right—not everything happens for a reason. Let me give you an example. This summer we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima. 3 days after that bombing, US planes took off to drop another atom bomb. Do you know where? No, not Nagasaki. It was Kuroko! However, there were heavy clouds over Kuroko and a split-second decision was made to bomb Nagasaki instead. So, some 50,000 people lost their lives in Nagasaki, while some 50,000 people in Kuroko were saved. Everything happens for a reason. Really?

Since the Coronavirus enveloped the world, people have debated what caused it. A common theme for some religious people has been that Gd brought it upon us because of our sins. And what were those sins?

- Rev. Rick Wiles, an Evangelical minister, warned his people: “Stay out of those synagogues…there’s a plague in them. Gd is dealing with false religions. Gd is dealing with people who oppose his son, Jesus Christ.” So Gd is punishing the world for the sins of the Jews? 

- A Muslim minister at least was more inclusive. He blames it on both the Jews and the Christians, whose rejection of Mohammed as the Prophet of Gd, has raised Gd’s anger.

According to some of the rabbis I have read, the sins Gd is punishing the world for are the sins that we, his own Jewish people, have committed. Some examples:

- Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky claims that because Jews bring cell phones into the synagogue, Gd created a situation where we had to be locked out of our shuls.

- Rabbi Meyer Mazuz claims that the LGBTQ community and Gay Pride marches went against nature and had caused the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Now I ask you: do these people understand what they’re saying? Can a rational human being really believe this?

Also, there were thousands in the Haredi right wing religious world who contracted the virus because they refused to take proper precautions with social distancing and wearing masks. My son Jonathan lives in Crown Heights Brooklyn and he has personally observed this. When he asked why they weren’t wearing masks he was told, “If you keep Shabbos and put on tefillin every day you can’t catch the virus.” Really?

Tell that to Chabad Rabbi Mordechai Gurary, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow head of the Novominsker Hasidic dynasty, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Freund of the Neturi Karta or 41 other rabbis who have died. In an article I read about this, a Mr. Leifer of Borough Park said, “There is not a single Hasidic family that has been untouched.” Did all these people die because of their sins?

So why have people died from the Coronavirus? The Talmud (Chagiga 4b) teaches that suffering and death can occur just because a person is in the wrong place at the wrong time. For proof it offers King Solomon’s statement (Proverbs 13:23): Yeysh mispeh b’lo mishpat (There are those that are swept away unjustly)—for no good reason.

The mystical Zohar (Bo 36a) on our Torah portion asks why Noah had to be put in an ark and not on an island to weather the storm and the flood, and it answers: Ka-asher yiteyn r’hsut l’mashchit l’hashchit (When permission is given to the destroyer to destroy)—anyone who gets in his way might be destroyed. So tragedies can happen, people can die for no good reason—just because one is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My friends, this deadly Covid-19 Coronavirus is still upon us, and no one knows why. Why some people who always social distance and always wear masks get the virus and others who are not so careful do not—no one knows why. But what we do know is that if we all practice these safety protocols carefully, then very few of us, if any of us will get it.

And if in any of us do get the virus, let me tell you as your rabbi, it is not necessarily because of your sins, but because you were in the wrong place at that wrong time. But if any of us do get Covid-19, then may Hashem grant us a refua sh’leyma, a quick and complete healing. Amen!



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