Hidden Treasures in the Coronavirus

April 28, 2020
Coronavirus vaccine. A vaccine against COVID-19 Coronavirus in ampoules on aged wooden table

COVID-19 has become the most influential entity of our time. We experience its hidden presence personally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. The virus, even for those who call it a hoax or political ploy, are forced to witness its influence and impact even as they deny its reality.

The country is at the mercy of leadership (federal and in some states) blinded by personal, egotistical and narcissistic goals affecting life and death. State leadership that follows science and medicine as a guidepost, give some of us a chance to fare well.

All that being said, what is real is real, even if doubters try to change people’s perceptions. The larger question, for me, is what are the hidden secrets, wisdom or seeds that are being planted in such challenging times? What is discovered for those of us who see opportunity and possibility for psychological and spiritual growth during this pandemic? How will our work, our relationships and our values shift and be allowed to flower in new ways?

The Torah portion Metzorah reminds us that in biblical times, there were diseases that afflicted many. Tzaarat, likened to leprosy, was seen as one of these. The Torah spells out the process of healing from such an illness, including separation from the community (sound familiar?), shaving facial hair, sacrificial offerings, sprinkling of blood and oil, and immersion, (both clothes and body).

Torah acknowledges what we now know, that separation is essential for the healing process, as well as ancient rituals believed for their power of transformation. The rabbis teach that this illness is the result of lashon harah, the evil tongue. The power of the word, “God said … and it was,” is believed to alter not only the Universe but the human being as well. One of the greatest weapons is the mouth and its ability to destroy another. This disease was believed to spread, as well, onto the walls of houses. If the affected areas did not improve, the house was destroyed, the “walls were brought down.”

Rashi, the great medieval commentator, responds to this catastrophe in a way that should teach us all about understanding tragedy. Based on a midrash that suggested the Amorites hid gold in the walls of their homes before the Israelites entered and conquered the land, Rashi suggests that when the walls fell, to the surprise of the Israelites, it revealed hidden treasures. Often in life’s hardships we find a hidden gift.

The walls have come down in our world with chaos, confusion and uncertainty left in its wake. We huddle in our homes, for some not so lucky living in tents or makeshift housing, forced to spend a lot of time alone, or with our partners and children. Old ways of passing one another, rushing, quick meals and distractions have been ripped to shreds. Separate has taken on new meaning. Commercials remind us “we’re not in this alone.” The Universe has become one, and each person is an important part of the whole, so important, that keeping physical distance offers the gift of life.

The walls have come down in our world with chaos, confusion and uncertainty left in its wake.

Yet soul connection has become front and center. Friends, family, community and fellow students and colleagues are but a click away. Most importantly, we’ve come to meet our soul, a blind date for some.

There are treasures in this pandemic — newfound values, newfound fellow travelers, inner strength, hope and resilience teaching us what we are made of. The facades are cracked and, as Leonard Cohen sang, “that is how the light gets in.” Nature, beauty, music, reading, resting and conversing have come to life in a wholly/holy different way. Time has become, as Abraham Joshua Heschel describes Shabbat, a palace to enter and embrace.

Everything has been reduced to what is truly necessary and what is truly good. The wave of kindness, generosity, respect and care flows through our society. At their peril, so many do what is right, fulfilling the necessary work that feeds and heals so many. Offerings on the internet now abound sometimes with overwhelming abundance. With mask in place, friendly eyes connect and share a hello as never before.

Yes, gold is hidden in the walls that have come down and hidden treasures now are ours.

Eva Robbins is a rabbi, cantor, artist and the author of “Spiritual Surgery, Journey of Healing Mind, Body and Spirit.” 

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