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God Squad: More about the spiritual vaccine that we need during the pandemic

Fear is a spiritual threat, and to free

Fear is a spiritual threat, and to free us from fear we need a spiritual vaccine, writes Rabbi Marc Gellman. Credit: Wenling01/Dreamstime

Oprah Winfrey and Tim Shriver, and a host of other folks, have organized a worldwide gathering of religious leaders, musicians and sensitive souls to teach and sing and remind us all that, though we are separated, we are not alone. I was asked to participate, and this is sort of what I said:

Shalom, I am Rabbi Marc Gellman and I bring you prayers and blessings that were recorded before the Sabbath, but that I hope will enter your hearts now on this day of rest.

Someday, we will have a vaccine that will overcome the physical effects of this plague that infects our bodies, but this virus has also infected our souls with fear, and fear is not essentially a medical threat. Fear is a spiritual threat, and to free us from fear we need a spiritual vaccine. Religion in all its forms, organized or personal, systematic or poetic, has always existed in human culture for this purpose above all. Faith frees us from fear. Whether it is the fear of our own death or the death of those we love; whether it is a fear of loneliness or meaninglessness; fear of the effects of sin; the purpose of faith is to free us from fear. That is the spiritual vaccine of faith.

There are many texts and rituals that deliver this vaccine into our spiritual bodies. Think of the fourth verse of the famous 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is My Shepherd." That verse says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me." This is the essence of the spiritual vaccine. God does not promise us a life without suffering. God promises us a life where we never have to suffer alone because God is with us. Faith is the vaccine against fear. Many people with no faith can also find their way to a life free of fear, but faith is the chosen vaccine against fear of many teachers who have joined today not to banish the plague but to banish the fear of the plague. God bless every soul who has found a way through the valley and into a place of hope and gratitude and joy.

One last thing. The spiritual vaccine is not just the belief that God is with us. It is also the belief that we are with God. I wrote a midrash for children about the belief that we are partners with God in this world and in this life. A midrash is a story about a Bible story. This midrash is from my book "Does God Have A Big Toe?" This midrash is about the story of the creation of the world in the very first verses of the very first book, Genesis.

Before there was anything, there was God, a few angels, and a huge swirling glob of rocks and water with no place to go. The angels asked God, "Why don't you clean up this mess?"

So God collected rocks from the huge swirling glob and put them together in clumps and said, "Some of these clumps of rocks will be planets, and some will be stars, and some of these rocks will be … just rocks."

Then God collected water from the huge swirling glob and put it together in pools of water and said, "Some of these pools of water will be oceans, and some will be clouds, and some of this water will be … just water."

Then the angels said, "Well God it's neater now, but is it finished?" And God answered, "NOPE!"

On some of the rocks God placed growing things, and creeping things, and things that only God knows what they are, and when God had done all this, the angels asked God, "Is the world finished now?" And God answered: "NOPE!"

God made a man and a woman from some of the water and dust and said to them, "I'm tired now. Please, finish up the world for me, really it's almost done." But the man and the woman said, "We can't finish the world alone! You have the plans and we are too little."

"You are big enough," God answered them. "But I agree to this. If you keep trying to finish the world, I will be your partner."

The man and the woman asked, "What's a partner?" and God answered, "A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means that you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you. On the days you think I am not doing enough, and on the days I think you are not doing enough, even on those days we are still partners and we must not stop trying to finish the world. That's the deal." And they all agreed to that deal.

Then the angels asked God, "Is the world finished yet?" and God answered, "I don't know. Go ask my partners."

SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at godsquadquestion@aol.com or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.

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