It has not escaped my attention that the event of the corona virus is happening between Purim and Passover. Purim, like Yom Kippur, is when we read a story about chance. The tables get turned for the better --- the Jews are saved, not destroyed. We acknowledge that fate can change at any given moment and we pray it turns in our favor. We are also headed into Passover where it took ten plagues to get us out of Egypt. People died with each plague. We learn that we don’t sing Hallel because the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea, that their lives also belong to the Holy One. Yet that story of liberation has fueled many a tradition and given many hope...
There is a story I have read on Yom Kippur, it’s a Zen Buddhist story not Jewish one, but at time like this virus it’s offering me some perspective I’d like to share:
One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he left his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.
Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, "What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?" The farmer replied:" Maybe so, maybe not... who knows, we shall see."
Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses, which followed the old horse into the corral.
Word got out in the village of the old farmer's good fortune and it wasn't long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck. "How fortunate you are!" they exclaimed. "You must be very happy!" Again, the farmer softly said: "Maybe so, maybe not.... Who knows? We shall see."
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer's only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer's son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer's latest misfortune. "Oh, what a tragedy! Your son won't be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You'll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad," they said. Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, "Maybe so...maybe not ...Who knows? We shall see".
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor's men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor's army. As it happened the farmer's son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. In the teahouse, the villagers again commented "What very good fortune you have!!" as their own young sons were marched away. "You must be very happy." "Maybe so, Who knows? We shall see!", replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.
As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. "Oh what bad luck. Too bad for you"! But the old farmer simply replied; "Maybe so, maybe not...Who knows? We shall see."
As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: "Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy", to which the old farmer replied, "Maybe...Who knows? We shall see!"
This is how I’m approaching the virus. Yes, at the moment it seems apocalyptic, people are panicking and buying things in a frenzy, predictions of many people dying; market crashing, and the government doesn’t know what to do, etc, etc. Yet I’m at optimist at heart, and I have let my mind wander to what if:
What if the corona virus:
-Inspires international cooperation between scientists like never before, and we are able to put that to use in the future with other diseases?
-Creates new jobs we don’t yet know about?
- Inspires Israel to find a vaccine and offer it to its enemies and peace breaks out?
-Takes the bullying, warmongering, trolling, and nastiness out of people; connects people in different ways; catapults us to the future where we see technology as a true gift to keep us safe and connected; perhaps alleviates some souls from suffering who have just not been able to exit life yet?
- Teaches us that we can cooperate across borders and then maybe find cures for plastic overload and environmental issues?
-Allows our children to see their aging parents with more vulnerability and treat them with more respect and love.
-Permits us to use our time at home to clean our house, catch up on things, learn a new skill, and clean out our inboxes and voicemails? Or better yet, make art and music, meditate, and pray.
-Inspires us to find new ways to help and care for each other?
- Diminishes our carbon emissions with less travel so that it actually helps the planet and puts us on the right track?
- Helps us find we are more resilient than we knew?
- Pushes billionaires step up and fund more?
-Helps the world find more compassion and solutions for the poor, disabled, elderly, mentally ill and those who need ongoing help?
- Resets our overwork/overwhelm cycle?
- Encourages us to learn to enjoy and love more those we are with at home?
-Means we learn how to manage anxiety?
- Exposes the cracks in our healthcare system and we unite to fix it?
- Forces us try new recipes and waste less food since we don't want to go out and shop?
- Moves us to get creative and new ( younger) leadership emerges to take us to the next stage of our evolution?
Maybe …who knows? we shall see….
Rabbi Rayzel Raphael , guest blogger, is the spiritual leader of Darkaynu In Warrington. She also offers lifecycle events and counseling in the Philadelphia, NJ and Delaware area. She is an award winning songwriter, and the author of two children’s books- Angels for Dreamtime and New Moon. For more information- and spiritual resources to get through these times - visit her website: www.shechinah.com