Part I: Introduction
It is an honor and a privilege to be sharing my thoughts with you, and I hope that they might offer you a little bit of comfort, hope, and light in these trying times. Before I begin, allow me to first take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude to those who helped me find my way here.
First, to Dr. Simone Gold. I have been following Dr. Gold online for almost a year now, and she has opened my eyes on a level I never could have imagined. Her passion, courage, and integrity continue to inform me, inspire me, and often bring me to tears as the world charts these chilling waters. From the bottom of my heart, I thank Dr. Gold, along with all the America’s Front Line Doctors, health care workers, and everyday heroes around the world who have sacrificed everything in the name of truth and saving countless lives. Words cannot describe the awe and admiration I have for each and every one of you.
Second, to Mrs. Amy Landau of the AFLDS team, who, in the span of one short conversation, profoundly changed my perspective on the part I have to play. With just a few gentle words of encouragement, she reminded me of the urgency of the moment we are in and how important it is that leaders—especially religious leaders—share their voice. This is no time for any one of us to underestimate ourselves and the impact we can have; we simply don’t have that luxury. There is too much at stake, and the world needs us. In the words of Jordan B. Peterson, “When you have something to say, silence is a lie—and tyranny feeds on lies” (12 Rules for Life). Thank you, Amy, for motivating me to speak up and write this column, and I hope my words do justice to the cause.
And finally, above all, to God, for bringing me to this point. There isn’t really anything (and yet there is everything) more to say than that.
To give you a little bit of background, I am a proud Orthodox Jew and rabbi, and my faith is the foundation of everything I do. I turn to the Torah for wisdom and guidance to help me navigate through life, and it has always served me well. I am fortunate to have worked as an educator in a number of different institutions for many years, and I am incredibly grateful for the rich and meaningful experiences I have had so far. My faith has always been strong and stable and gave me the strength to move forward.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, the world has changed so much that I hardly recognize it. The past year has been wrought with so much sadness, so much uncertainty, so much darkness, and so much evil that I am shaken to my core. The world has witnessed countless displays of gross negligence, insidious manipulation, and abhorrent abuse of power that violate the sanctity of life, impinging on human rights and freedoms and bringing about unnecessary deaths every day. Worst of all, the people responsible for these crimes against humanity continue to lie, deceive, and gaslight the world, disguising their sinister agenda as a noble endeavor to save the masses. It is absolutely heart-wrenching.
AFLDS Column: The Spiritual Battle Post 1: Introduction
At times, I find myself spiraling into depression and despair. My faith in humanity disappears, and I am unable to comprehend how God could let all of this happen. I am riddled with doubt and confusion that seem impossible to overcome. And on top of everything, I feel isolated and alone. This pandemic, and the absolute atrocities around it, have thrown me head-on into a spiritual battle I was not prepared for.
But I find solace in the fact that I am not fighting it alone.
If you are reading this, perhaps you are like me, and you are struggling to make sense of the world right now. Perhaps you too are sad, tired, confused, and angry, and perhaps you are grappling with your faith. Perhaps you too tried turning to your friends, colleagues, doctors and religious leaders for clarity, comfort, and support and have been left disappointed. Perhaps you too wish you could unsee and unknow the truths that you have come to see and know and live your life blissfully ignorant like so many people today. Perhaps you too are at a loss as to how truth has been denounced and dangerous lies have continued to triumph. Perhaps you too feel the gravity of the spiritual battle we are in, and the weight of it all feels like too much to shoulder.
Please know that you are not alone. There are so many people, good, honest, people, fighting this fight. There are doctors, scientists, lawyers, religious leaders and professionals in every field speaking out and trying to keep this evil at bay, and there are everyday people all around us doing whatever they can to stand up for what is right. There are heroes all around us, heroes willing to sacrifice everything in the name of truth. We are stronger when we stand together, supporting one another as we each offer our own unique voice.
And that is why I am writing this column. It is time to bring God back into the conversation and to do so with pure intentions. I am not talking about carelessly throwing around oversimplified religious aphorisms or precepts extrapolated out of context. I am talking about turning our attention to the Torah and properly understanding its eternal messages. And so I am taking it upon myself to share with you example upon example directly from the Torah that provide clarity on the issues we are facing today. It doesn’t matter what your background, religion, or faith is; the principles of the Torah are timeless truths, and only they can light the way through this darkness. Only when we turn to God—even and especially when we are consumed with doubt—will we prevail.
Allow me to close with one final point.
The Talmud (Makkot 24b) relates a powerful story involving a number of Jewish sages, among them Rabbi Akiva, an individual who experienced an extraordinary amount of tragedy in his lifetime. Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues made their way to Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple. When they arrived at Mount Scopus and saw the site of the Temple, they rent their garments in mourning. When they arrived at the Temple Mount, they saw a fox that emerged from the site of the Holy of Holies. All of them began weeping—except for one. Rabbi Akiva was laughing. The rabbis asked: “Akiva, the prophecy regarding the destruction of the Temple has come true, and now foxes play there! Why are you laughing?” Rabbi Akiva said to them: “That is why I’m laughing. Now that this prophecy—that “Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become rubble, and the Temple Mount as the high places of a forest” (Micah 3:12)—has come true, I can be sure that its accompanying prophecy will be fulfilled as well—the prophecy that foretells of the rebuilding of Jerusalem!” And the Sages said to him, “Akiva, you have comforted us; Akiva, you have comforted us.”
Where this is destruction, there will ultimately be rebuilding, and where there is darkness, there will ultimately be light. In the meantime, I look forward to continuing to share words of Torah with you to give us strength to keep on going.