In the last week or so, it has become clear that we are in the beginning of the fourth wave of Covid-19 in Israel. We thought we had beaten the virus, and so did much of the world, but once again we’re closing down as the number of new cases quickly rises. Even though about 60 percent of Israel’s population is inoculated, we’re still losing to the virus, and this time it is hitting the children, for whom the risk of serious side effects such as myocarditis (inflammation of the muscular tissue of the heart) is much higher than it is for adults.
As I have warned countless times before, we’re not sickened by the coronavirus; we’re sickened by hubris and conceit. Self-importance and egoism are sure recipes for disaster, and we are proving it every time we see that Covid cases are declining. What’s more, Covid is not a local or a national problem; it is the problem of the entire world, and unless the entire world is included in the solution, we will not get rid of it. Covid-19 will teach us that we’re in this together, for better or worse, dependent on each other. Unless we think about each other’s health, we ourselves will not be well.
In a sense, I’m happy that Covid is here because it teaches us this mutual responsibility. At the same time, I am equally unhappy about our obstinacy and reluctance to learn, as it is costing us lives, millions of lives. I myself lost friends, students, and some of their family members to the virus. No one is excluded from this bug, which is precisely why it is so effective in teaching us mutual responsibility.
Just as the ten plagues in Egypt ushered a new era in the history of the people of Israel, when they pledged to unite “as one man with one heart,” Covid-19 is ushering the world into the exact same state. Its plagues will grow less and less quantitative, and more and more qualitative, meaning leading us directly toward understanding that without pledging to care for one another, we will not survive.
In the desert, after they fled from Egypt, the Israelites did not willingly accept the pledge for unity. They, too, had to deal with their egos. The Talmud writes (Avoda Zarah 2b) that “The Lord had forced the mountain over Israel like a vault, and said unto them: ‘If you accept the Law [of mutual responsibility], very well, but if not, there will it be your grave.’” Today, it seems as though Covid is taking God’s role in forcing us to make the same pledge. I hope we will not be obstinate much longer since the plagues, we already know, will only grow harsher.
A youth receives a vaccination against COVID-19 in Ashkelon, Israel, June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen