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God Squad: The promise of faith is not a life without threats and dangers

People in Milan, Italy, wear masks to ward

People in Milan, Italy, wear masks to ward off the new coronavirus. Credit: Alberto Mihai

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Q: Why would God design a universe where such destructive events as the coronavirus can happen? — S

A: I was ordained to be a rabbi not a prophet, so when it comes to explaining God's ways with the world, I always begin with the disclaimer that I am in sales not management. Even so, this pandemic has clear spiritual implications that are at least as important as its medical elements.

Even the coronavirus is not evil. It is just a part of God's plan for the governance of the world. Stripped of the fear they cause, viruses are just part of the natural functioning of the Earth. Viruses may actually have played an important role in helping us to evolve into the species we have become. They weed out genetic material that is maladapted to the world and introduce new variants of the human species who are immune to their predations. Viruses do for us what lions do for herds of wildebeest. They make certain that the strong survive. This may seem harsh, but God's plan is to give life an edge over death and this is one of the way's God nurtures life. Don't blame God because some get sick and die. Life is always the winner over death in the long run. That truth is also from God.

The coronavirus may be a warning from God to help each other. We have created a world that is linked to make money but not always linked to keep us safe. The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis (Chapter 11) is the story of a unified and linked mankind that used its primitive globalism to "Make a name" (11:4) not to bring peace and healing to all. The global interconnectedness of the world is our contemporary Babel. We must use it distribute medicine and medical information, not hoard it. Our worldwide cooperation now is both a challenge and a test.

Finally, the uniform advice from all the medical professionals is deeply spiritual in its implications … DON'T PANIC. Panic produces irrational reactions that wildly exaggerate this threat. The problem is that we don't know the extent of this threat or its future, and that uncertainty fuels panic. While we await a medical vaccine that will end this pandemic, our best course is to find a spiritual vaccine. That spiritual antidote is faith and hope, and the biblical storehouse of this vaccine is Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The key is verse four, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

The promise of faith is not a life without threats and dangers. The promise is a life with hope and the certain knowledge that we do not face danger alone. God is with us to calm us and to give us hope in the face of uncertainty and even death. This is the core of faith. It is not blind; it is the result of our experiences during past journeys through the valley of the shadow of death. This virus may infect our bodies, but it will not infect our faith if we embrace the belief that we are not facing this trial alone.

May we walk through the valley with God and together.

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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