Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits on the Coronavirus

The following address was given to Aish HaTorah staff around the world through a zoom call.

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There have always been epidemics. The world was so simple. Although they spread, relative to what's going on today, they were confined. Face it, between technology and travel, the world has gotten very small. From one individual somewhere in China, all of humanity is going out of its mind. This is definitely a result of the fact that the world is so advanced.

We're not neviim, we're not prophets here, but it's difficult not to take note of the fact that humanity has felt so much in control of everything that this whole situation is humbling. People are especially scared because they're not used to this. We've been made to feel so secure because we are so much in control of everything. Modern medicine, how we've come such a long way. It's humbling. It's humbling when you read what doctors have to say. Some are honest and say, "We really don't know. We've never dealt with this virus before."

Others, others are double talking. How long does this virus live? "Um, somewhere between 4 and 20 hours, maybe a couple of days." In other words, we don't know. We don't know. Will it survive the summer? Nobody knows. How far are we away from a vaccination? Nobody knows. A cure? Viruses aren't so curable. We don't know. Why is it that when so many people are exposed, only some are affected, not others? Nobody knows. The whole thing is a mystery.

We're humbled. We're humbled this microscopic particle is making the whole world crazy. People's personal, just sense of security is gone. Look what's going on financially. Our lifestyles are changing totally. There's a real fear.

The very first thing we've got to do is catch ourselves and remember we don't run the world. For anyone that understands that there's Divine Providence. We are being reminded that although the Almighty has given us so much wisdom, with all of that, there's so much we don't know and there's so much that's beyond our control. Then ultimately, if we recognize that He loves us and we count on Him and trust in Him, we'll be fine. Everything he does is the best for us even though we don't understand it. We'll be in a whole better place.

The first thing is just to recognize we don't run the world. We don't know everything. There's Someone bigger than all of us. With the tiniest thing, He can just change the face of all of humanity.

But I'd like to talk about some other parts of it. People are panicking. For the most part, most human beings are not really in danger. Face it. For most people, even if infected, God forbid. So it's a bad flu. Those who are autoimmune compromised, including the elderly, for them it's an issue. But for most ... So what is it? We have a responsibility to everybody else. We have a responsibility to all of those people who are vulnerable. We have a responsibility to all those who are autoimmune compromised. So all of the measures that are being taken are not for our own selfish sake, but for the sake of others. So that we don't get others in a position where their lives are in danger. Certainly not in proportions where the medical facility, the medical establishment will just not be able to handle it. Which means that everybody's really got to focus on the fact that all the precautions we're taking are not because we're scared out of our wits, but because we have a sense of responsibility, because we care about the rest of humanity. We care about everybody else.

You've got to feel that. You've got to take things seriously. You know, whatever decisions are being made locally, I'm talking from Israel. Israel is a relatively small country. The claim is that with extreme measures, it can be contained. It can really be contained to the point that they think they can rid the country of it. So the measures are extreme, everything's in turmoil, they closed just about everything.

America is too big. The issue with slowing it down so that when people do take ill, those that need medical attention, it will be available for them because there'll be enough, enough available for them. Every place, every city has its own laws, it's got its own rules. Make sure to live by them. You take this serious, but not because you're scared that something's going to happen to you. People are panicking. For most people, it's totally unnecessary. What we're talking about is a bad flu. It's uncomfortable and inconvenient, but feel that sense of responsibility for everybody else. Feel that I'm being cautious, I'm being cautious so that I do not catch something that I could God forbid transmit to others that will eventually end up with someone whose life will be in danger, which means that really, what should be most that should be really most occupying our minds should be the feeling for others. The sense of responsibility and the feeling for others. That's a wonderful thing to focus on. I say once you're there, it'd be great idea to revisit some of your old relationships, the ones who've given up on. The people that you've written off, the people that in your mind are problematic, and maybe start thinking about them in a more constructive way.

At a time of danger, people are a little bit more open to hearing things that they didn't hear before. I think in our own minds, we should work through some of the relationships gone bad, some of the people that you don't like, and think it through again. The people you think wronged you, "Let me think it through again." I think that's a great idea.

But by and large, the focus is we're being careful. Sanitizing your hands; careful not shaking hands; when your outside, when you're touching things that were touched by all kinds of people, making sure you don't touch your face. The reason to do it is because you don't want to hurt anybody else, because you don't want to endanger people who are vulnerable.

This is really the mindset. So no panic and no personal insecurity, but a strong sense of responsibility and a very strong one. Certainly following the rules. It may not be a bad idea to think about going past some of the rules and seeing a little bit into the future. Not in every place have they taken the measures that are really necessary yet, and you may want to do that. In terms of holding public gatherings, giving public classes with lots of people around, today you can give classes online. There's no reason why you have to go and endanger anybody. This, this is really the mindset I believe.

Just to get back to things. First of all, to remember we don't run the world. There's Someone bigger than us up there. Despite the fact and perhaps because of the fact that we're so advanced, this has caused so much trouble, it has spread so quickly all over the world and has caused the kind of damage that could never have been done in previous generations. So recognizing that the One Above has shown us how this microscopic being can go and set everything haywire, there's Someone bigger than us. Learn to trust Him and know that He does love us.

Second, recognize that it's not you that's in danger. It's others. You're not walking around panicking because you're afraid of what's going to happen to you, but you're walking around with a great sense of responsibility.

Let me conclude. There was a Torah commandment of prayer in time of trouble and time of need. People are looking around for the magic potion. What do I say that will save me? And a lot of things out there. We're not into the magic. There's a Torah commandment to speak to your Creator, to give us some advice on how to run the world because He wants to hear that from us. He is the address. To let Him know, to let Him know that we care about humanity, that it pains us, and we beg, we beg that He put the pieces back together again. That He puts an end to this threat and an end to the turmoil that all of civilization has found itself in.

So everyone should be praying. A prayer could be in your own words. In fact, it's probably more effective when you say what you mean and mean what you say.

May the One Above hear all of our prayers and may this come to an end in a happy ending. May we one day find out that it was actually for our benefit and He does love us after all. Then hopefully, in the not so distant future, this world will be a much better place to live in. May you all be very healthy.

Comments (10)

(10) Anonymous, March 19, 2020 10:27 PM

Rabbi I really enjoyed your message. One question though. You said not to panic. You didn’t address the financial crisis for so many people, which I think causes as much anxiety as the medical concerns. How do people who have lost their jobs and savings not feel panic?

(9) Moshe Elkman, March 18, 2020 11:30 AM

B"H Just a bad flu?

(8) Erika kish, March 18, 2020 9:58 AM

Bringing deeper AWARNESS

Thank you Rabbi ,so well presented it touched me deeply and brought peace to the anxiety we all feel. Thank you kindly

(7) Anonymous, March 18, 2020 12:49 AM

Excellent speech

I found Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovitz very interesting and extremely knowledgeable.
I enjoyed listening to him and found he really made me feel more aware of what and why we are going through this period of the Corona Virus but not to fear. We must continue believing in Hashem and that he only runs the world and we must make changes to better ourselves and the world we live in. We know Hashem loves each and every one of us and we must make changes NOW to do what Hashem wants of us and then we can all live happily as a family and have no fears. Rabbi Yitzchak spoke from his heart and I enjoyed every word he said. He is brilliant and I am sure after his speech that many people are less frighted now. We must continue trusting and believing in Hashem.

(6) Bob Van Wagner, March 17, 2020 7:03 PM

Is there room for a face-time seder?

Is there room for a face-time seder? or zoom?

(5) maurice (moshe) kessler, March 17, 2020 6:59 PM

i am working on a family tree and would like to contact Rav Berkovitz about any connection

(4) Steve Douglas, March 17, 2020 3:58 PM

Thank you Rabbi Berkovits

Your keen insight is a new perspective on the humbling from the Almighty. This will be in the forefront of my thinking going forward.

(3) Lothar Heinrich Kerscher, March 16, 2020 3:23 PM

Very, very nice. Thanks!

(2) Chaya, March 16, 2020 1:03 PM

Excellent Address

Thank you for posting this for the wider audience.

Belief and Trust in Divine Providence is foundational to Judaism, and this address captures the essence of our Faith.

We are responsible to one another and may the Garments of our Souls, in word, thought and action be for Blessing as we move through this.

Baruch HaShem ! Thank you for the opportunity to hear Rabbi Berkovits, I had not before and it is a great gift.

(1) Anonymous, March 16, 2020 1:00 PM

Amen, thank you Rabbi Berkovitz!


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