By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
Seventeen months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Many people got sick and, tragically, many people lost their lives. Our doctors and scientists did not understand the COVID-19 virus, did not know how to treat it, and had no antidote to the virus. For the first time in a very long time, western civilizations were vulnerable and had no answers? Doctors and scientists looked for treatments, cures, and preventive measures. Vaccines were developed and we all breathed a sigh of relief thinking we were finally safe again. Mankind had, seemingly, discovered a solution to this plague. Infection rates decreased dramatically and all the numbers were looking better.
Then, the Delta variant lurked in the distance. Would it reach our shores? Would our vaccines protect us against this variant? And now it is here, and we have just been guided by the CDC to wear masks indoors even if vaccinated. Will this end? What is to stop a new variant from arising? We are left feeling vulnerable again.
“Beware that you do not forget the Lord…. Who fed you with manna in the desert, which your forefathers did not know, in order to afflict you and in order to test you…” (Deuteronomy 8: 11-16)
What is the meaning that God gave us the manna in order to afflict us and test us? The Netziv has an interesting interpretation. God afflicted us by placing us in a situation where we had nothing to eat and no solution. God then provided us with a last minute resolution by giving us the manna. There was no way to store the manna and, therefore, we remained vulnerable each and every day. We had no option but to look to God to provide us with our livelihoods. Thus, the Jewish people came to trust in God for their livelihood and salvation. When we see our efforts prosper, we tend to ‘forget this message’. Thus, the Torah warns: “And you will say to yourself, ‘My strength and the might of my hand has accumulated this wealth for me.’ But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth….” (Deuteronomy 8: 17-18)
Just when we thought our efforts had alleviated our vulnerability, we are reminded that we are constantly dependent on God for salvation in all areas. We need God to bless the work of our hands and make them successful in areas of scientific development, livelihood, and health. The Delta variant reminds us of our dependence on God and His blessing our handiwork for our ultimate salvation. Let us pray that God blesses the handiwork of our doctors and scientists to find a lasting solution to this tragic pandemic.