One of my students recently asked me, in light of the social distancing conditions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, gatherings of up to 5,000 people were initially permitted, then 2,000 people, then 500, 100, 10, and 5. The question was: Why nature is doing this to us, and what will result from it?
It is written, “Being scattered: for the wicked it is a benefit to them and to the world; but for the righteous, it is bad for them and bad for the world. Being gathered: for the wicked it is bad for them and bad for the world; but for the righteous, it is beneficial to them and beneficial to the world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin, 8:5)
The social distancing conditions come as “benefit to the wicked.” We need to understand firstly what it means that we are “wicked,” and then why our scattering is ultimately of benefit to us.
The wickedness that the verse speaks of is embedded in our very egoistic human nature, which by default prioritizes personal benefit over benefiting others.
The more we develop, the more the ego grows, and in recent times it has become bloated.
Our pre-coronavirus world looked like a wild struggle for wealth, status and power, where we each tried to make our way in life by comparing ourselves with others, and always feeling deficient relative to them.
Therefore, social distancing lessens our jealously and calms down our society.
While in these social distancing conditions, we have been given a chance to become worthy of re-gathering. That is, by developing considerate attitudes to each other, to the extent of our mutual consideration, we will become worthy of coming closer together. On the contrary, the more selfish we are toward each other, then we should detach to the extent of our selfishness.
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