Torah For Today: Lockdown 3.0

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Torah For Today: Lockdown 3.0

Rabbi Daniel Friedman looks into Jewish texts for an Orthodox response to the pandemic

Stuck inside during lockdown
Stuck inside during lockdown

We’ve just been hit with the sad news of a new lockdown, this time without an end date. The difference, however, is that we now have an exit strategy, the vaccine. It’s not going to be easy to endure the next few weeks and months, but we must all do our part.

However, is it fair to lock everybody down so that a certain segment of the population – the aged and vulnerable – are protected?  What does the Torah say about this? 

Here’s where Jewish values are helpful.  While Darwinism tells us that it’s all about survival of the fittest, our sages teach that when one of us stumbles, we all do (Shevuot 39b). We’re all on the same team. When one of our players goes down, the entire team suffers.  

The Talmud explains that a pious person is even prepared to sacrifice his own spirituality in order to avoid the stumbling of an unlearned individual (Eruvin 32b). 

We are all soldiers on the frontlines of this battle against coronavirus. Even if it means putting our own comfort and security on the line, we never forsake any of our fellow soldiers.

Curiously, one of the few places that remain open are places of worship. First, that’s a tribute to the standard of care we’ve all maintained during these past few months.  But second, and perhaps more profoundly, it’s a powerful statement about the spiritual values of our nation.  

Despite all talk of declining religious beliefs, God is on the rise in this country. In our synagogues, Yom Kippur was as busy as ever.  And the heated response from our Christian neighbours to the news that Christmas would be curtailed this year was a telltale sign of the state of religion in the UK. God still matters to Britons.  

The speedy arrival of the vaccine was nothing short of a miracle. May our Father in Heaven have mercy upon us and put an end to the crisis very soon. 

  •  Rabbi Daniel Friedman serves Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue

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