By Gila Jedwab, DMD
EDITORS NOTE: The debate over the global response to the COVID-19 virus will most likely go on for months, maybe years. It is the opinion of the 5TJT that we should follow the protocols set by our medical experts and rabbinical authorities, especially on the important matter of social distancing and wearing masks.
The chesed has already happened, in case you missed it. A huge salvation took place behind the scenes and under the radar. This humble style of hidden miracle has been G-d’s modus operandi ever since that time He reached down and split the sea. After that, G-d took His best work off the grid; His miracles became much harder to spot.
I want to be clear in my wording so it can be absorbed by innocent souls still fragmented by the massive fear grenade lobbed at us. The hidden miracle is this: There was a virus that was expected to kill millions. Six months later, the virus has only killed one million people.
Let that miracle sink in. That means that so far this year, the year of the “pandemic,” more people did not die of coronavirus than they died of anything else. Still, COVID-19 has claimed more lives than any coronavirus or influenza since 1918. Despite possible missed counts from people who died from co-morbidities and people who died of COVID prior to widespread testing, inflated numbers, mislabeled death certificates, and iatrogenic hospital deaths, the overall death rate still turned out to be 10%. Thank you, Hashem, for that mammoth miracle.
This secondary chesed of being protected from the fear is the James Bond of miracles. He did His job and almost slipped out the door without any recognition at all. Miracles are slick; they will saunter by like a whistling stranger.
The small blue Google microphone is my friend. I like directing my most vexing existential questions to her. So I asked, “Google, can people really be scared to death?” Google answered me with a resounding, “Yes!” Encyclopedia Britannica editorial intern Cydney Grannan, says, “Humans can be scared to death. Any strong emotional reaction can trigger fatal amounts of a chemical, such as adrenaline, into the body.”
Cydney goes on to say, “The risk of death from fear is greater for individuals with preexisting heart conditions, but people who are perfectly healthy can also fall victim.” Oh, really. Good to know. Thank you, Google. Maybe that explains why the majority of deaths from coronavirus were the people with preexisting conditions. The fear may have sent their susceptible hearts over the edge.
I didn’t really need Google for this one, I already knew it. Not from any class in dental school, but from Seichel 101. Most of us can instinctively intuit this simple biological fact. A basic physiological response that some medical school curricula may have underemphasized: When you terrify someone, you can kill him. People can drop suddenly from an acute panic attack or shut down slowly from a long and drawn-out IV drip of fear messages. How long can a body withstand the toxic cascade of stress hormones? Our poor bodies have been subjected to an intense six months of fielding bad news and warnings from the media and local leadership. We could all use a break from it.
Pessimistic fear mongering is an etiology of disease. Fear dumps dangerous chemicals into an otherwise healthy bloodstream. Anyone contributing to this chemical dumping of fear is complicit in creating disease. It is not helping anyone to perpetuate an agenda of excess caution or promote a disease-fixated culture. It is especially harmful to the little eyes that look up to us for comfort and reassurance. For ease of life. They are learning everything from us. Do we want to teach them to become little worriers? To be afraid of their own breathing and sneezing or a spontaneous hug from their friend? It is important to remember that a medical license does not hold anyone above the scrutiny of G-d.
On Rosh Hashanah, there is one haunting prayer that echoes inside our collective acoustic chamber. Rabbi Amnon reached back through a dream to deliver us its sobering message:
Those who were supposed to die this year, died.
Those who were supposed to live this year, lived.
Those who were supposed to prosper, prospered.
And so on.
We never had one ounce of control over any of that, other than trusting G-d. How did we forget to internalize this posthumous lesson that Rav Amnon sacrificed life and limb to deliver?
We need to walk back this futile power grab. We need to understand that the easier we are with Life, the easier Life will be with us. The more we let go, the vaster the space we leave for G-d to do His thing. One pinhole of trust opens infinite acreage for G-d to step in and save us. It is His pleasure.
Another quiet miracle tapped me on the shoulder this week. A sorely needed phraseology slipped quietly into the world. An antonym was born. It delivered long-overdue validity to a whole group of marginalized people. Those of us who are naturally suspicious of overbearing authority and facts that don’t add up. We have been brushed off as conspiracy theorists. Well, the opposite creature has officially been named. A species of naturally born, rule-following believers. They can now be called by a fitting moniker: Complicity Theorist.
Complicity Theorist (noun): a person who accepts the political narrative of the day unquestionably; consumes mainstream media like it was 1980; and is prone to submissiveness, outbursts of irrational fear, and public shaming of free thinkers.
All of us fall somewhere along the spectrum of these two terms. But at least there are two seats restored to the see-saw. We can pivot gracefully on a balanced beam. I’d like to point out that it was once a conspiracy theorist who postulated that the world was round.
As someone who gravitates towards the conspiracy theory end of the playground, I would like to bring up one important consideration for the future. We have set a dangerous precedent here. We have tried to battle the invisible and have ended up throwing punches at ever-ducking ghosts. When you chase down the unseen, the race is blindfolded. The pursuit has no starting block or finish line, just an endless run of exhausting zig-zags. Let’s call the race. Let’s remember to concede all victories to G-d, especially when we cannot even see our opponent. Let us stop trying to re-engineer the natural world G-d created for us to thrive in. He set beautiful systems into motion from the beginning of creation. Hence His famous opening line, “In the beginning, G-d created the world.” Let us trust Him on that and not tamper too much with His genius.
We are graciously offered up a humbling privilege on a silver platter every single year: to recoronate our True King. Let’s do it again for the 5781st time and put this masked imposter to bed.
Close your eyes and feel G-d maneuvering our destiny towards Unity with Him. Feel G-d’s subtle pulse working perfectly inside your body and inside creation. Remember that the most reliable rendezvous point with G-d is always found behind your eyes and inside your heart. He waits there patiently for us to notice His quiet miracles. He’s a very hands-off G-d; the first move in the relationship is always yours.
The Israeli Poet Yehuda Amichai taught us the easiest way to spot a miracle — by pulling your eyelids back and widening your visual field. He said that from afar everything begins to look like a miracle. But up close, even a miracle doesn’t look like one. He painted this vivid imagery, “Even a Crosser of the divided Red Sea saw only the sweating back of the walker in front of him.” Wow. I never thought about all those sweaty backs.
If you don’t tilt your head up and zoom out, all you will ever see are the sweaty backs. All you will ever hear are forecasts of doom and disease.
Press your wide eyeballs firmly into the binoculars of Heaven. Climbing up to that altitude is like looking through those rusty machines on top of the Empire State Building. You can suddenly spot every nonchalant miracle strutting on the sidewalk below. It would be a shame to miss even one.