A Spiritual Reckoning with the Wuhan Virus

Rabbi Yochanan, a great sage and leader of Israel, would carry the tiniest bone of the 10th child he buried, in order to help in the consolation of those going through the most difficult time of their lives, the loss of a child. It was a way of saying that he understood and shared their grief. My rabbi and his wife, with great dignity, endured the loss of a child many years ago and now, they are suffering through the loss of a second adult child from COVID-19. I can’t imagine any sort of solace or words that would help console.

His son, who was older than me, was a good man, like many of the good men and women across the world who are succumbing to this deadly virus. With only internet Zoom funeral services allowed and internet or telephone Shivah to be sat, no family or friends allowed to be present, is there any worse form of hell that their family members can endure?

The 9/11 attacks and the moronic wars our great country stupidly entered in response to it aside, I am from a spoiled generation. No drafts, no cold wars, no gas shortages. I am part of a generation whose biggest fear up to this point has been losing our Wi-Fi or having an Amazon package arrive late or how many followers we have and how many likes we get. Many fought and died so we could be the luxury problem generation, and I pray that their great deeds are now being reciprocated.

You want to know how good we have had it? We as a nation are still transfixed by Joe Exotic, a cad in podunk Oklahoma. Trust me, I’d rather be writing about politics than thinking about the pain my rabbi, his wife, and his whole family are going through right now. And I would say the “countless others” but the media is doing a count, I’m sure for the noblest of reasons.

The sad part of all of this is that we do have someone to blame. No, it’s not God or the president or 5G (and someone will have to explain that one to me). The blame for this quite simply belongs to China and the decades we spent doing business with people who treat dogs, cats, and a whole slew of other animals as edibles, and who treat humans like animals. For what? For a television that is a few dollars cheaper?  Is that what we have sold our souls for? No, this isn’t xenophobia or racism or anything like it. It is just me staring at my iPhone while I write this and thinking about my own complacency.

We have Americans and many around the world who want to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel. Why not? The Jews are an easy target. But we seem to have no problem with the two-child policy of a Communist regime that had no compunction about rolling tanks over defenseless humans. We value life; at least a majority of us say we do, so how can we keep doing business with so many who don’t? No money or trade deals will ever compensate those around the world for the hell on earth so many of us now endure.

In the Chinese government, people are as replaceable as auto parts and iPhones. Of course, we will get through this. We will mourn. We will have countless investigations. But sadly, we will forget, because sadly that is another thing this generation does so well. We do business with so much evil, so maybe the blame does not lie solely with China. Yet that’s another trait this generation sadly lacks—introspection.

Last week during Passover, many Jews retold the story of the exodus from Egypt. But we shouldn’t just tell it, we must feel it. And in so doing, we need to feel what those who went before us went through. I pray that we as Americans, we as a world, tell this story and feel this story once we get through it. We must not live as if it’s business as usual. Rather, if you want to do business you have to pay the piper and the piper is a modicum of humanity.

And just maybe those who have died and those who are sick will get the Shiva they truly deserve by somehow knowing that we will always keep a tiny “bone” in our pockets. Or perhaps we can just watch the bonus episode of “Tiger King.” Baruch Dayan Ha’emet.

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