While Standing (Six Feet Apart) On One Foot
Erev Shabbat April 17, 2020

A little history. Between about 1300 and 1850 the world experienced what is now called a ‘Little Ice Age.’ It is exactly what it sounds like. Throughout the world there was simply no escape from the cold in places where winter occurs. Especially jarring was that this little ice age occurred after some 500 years of what was essentially perfect farming weather. Looking from 36,000 feet it is interesting to see the contrasts between these two periods.

Culturally, someone had to be blamed. After all, if everything is moving along swimmingly and then out of the blue everything freezes over, there has to be someone to blame. This is even more true when a country is religious. If God has blessed you for half a millennium and then everything freezes, the opposite of God’s blessing has to be God’s curses and, if God is cursing, well, then there has to be a reason. So what were the reasons for God’s curse?

Well, of course, the Jews. But also witches. And, in Ireland, the Reformation was blamed. It is only astounding to a scientific world in which we live that people don’t understand that stuff happens over which they have no control, no power, and no appeal. Nature will progress with or without our prejudices and politics. A virus is the same way.

This virus cares nothing about anything. In a real sense, it is not even alive in the strict sense. It just is and its sole job is to reproduce. That’s it. It doesn’t care how impatient we are. It doesn’t care how bored we are. It doesn’t care about our restaurants or our hardware stores or anything else, for that matter.

But people care. And people are emotionally driven animals and when an animal is angry it bites back.

And here is where the little ice age comes in.

Why are so many people clamoring for everything to reopen when it is a death sentence for untold numbers of others? From what I have heard, these people carrying their Confederate and Nazi flags (really!) blame the media for the hype, the Jews for the virus, the politicians for being bought off, and whomever else they can think of. To quote Ripley from Aliens, ‘Did IQs just drop while I was away?’ IQs didn’t drop. Emotions rose and when emotions erupt, usually that’s okay. But when they endanger each of us, it’s not.

How dare Dr. Oz – a TV doctor who plays one on TV – feed into these emotions. In what will be the death knell of his public career (wishful thinking?) he said, that opening schools represent what he believes is “a very appetizing opportunity.” From there, Oz referred to something he recently read in the somewhat controversial medical journal the Lancet. Oz used that to posit that, for some, sacrificing “2 to 3 percent” of people in/attending schools is a fair tradeoff so long as schools are functioning as they did during pre-coronavirus days.

Yes. A doctor is suggesting that 2-3% of your children die so people can shop at Home Depot. For real numbers, that is 1,698,000 children under the age of 18 that Dr. Oz and his rah-rah chorus suggest is ‘and appetizing opportunity.’ (He is but one example among many who are willing to let us either die or kill others so we can all buy a roll of tape!)

As this pandemic plays out and peters out we will have learned a whole lot about each other and what and who is willing to sacrifice. Sometimes they are sacrificing of themselves – nurses, doctors, clerks, etc. And sometimes they are sacrificing others – Dr. Oz and his ilk. A sacrifice is not always a holy thing. Sometimes a sacrifice is simply strange fire and such a fire consumes those who brought is (see Nadav and Abihu in the Torah).

Each of us can choose to be holy. It truly does depend on our sacrifices. Is our sacrifice for the literal life and death of our neighbor and ourselves or is it the metaphorical throwing the innocent into the volcano to appease the gods? One is praiseworthy. One is not. In this pandemic, the choice is no longer simply academic. It is as real as it gets – just ask Nadav and Abihu.