Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Why Did God Send The Coronavirus?

Why did God send the Coronavirus? Several people have been confidently sharing their knowledge about this.

Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, for example, insists that it's clearly a punishment for the evils of the Internet. (Incidentally, he's not even referring to pornography - he says that he's talking about how if something "not nice" is occurring in one place, it is reported all over the world. One rather suspects that he is referring to blogs that blow the whistle on rabbinic abuse.) His "proof" is that the evils of the internet are something that the older generation should have been more vigilant about - and so it is middah keneged middah that the older generation are more susceptible to coronavirus.

Yet if there's anything that's obvious from the current situation, it's that the Internet has been helpful in combating the pandemic and its effects. It's via the Internet that people were alerted to the dangers of coronavirus, and it's via the Internet that people have been able to continue their jobs and their Torah study at home. In fact, it was precisely those communities which didn't have internet that were most badly affected. So, aside from Rav Wachtfogel's explanation being distasteful, I think that in contrast to him claiming that it's obviously true, it's plainly wrong.

Many other rabbis, including some with much broader followings than Rav Wachtfogel, have claimed in more general terms that coronavirus serves to humble man. They say it should remind us of the limitations of science and technology.

Personally, I think that this also gets things backwards.

Let's consider the Destruction of the Temple. There are all kinds of sins that are described as being the cause of the Destruction. But Rambam, in his letter to the Jews of Marseilles, says something seemingly very different:
This is why our kingdom was lost and our Temple was destroyed and why we were brought to this; for our fathers sinned and are no more because they found many books dealing with these themes of the star gazers, these things being the root of idolatry, as we have made clear in Laws Concerning Idolatry. They erred and were drawn after them, imagining them to be glorious science and to be of great utility. They did not busy themselves with the art of war or with the conquest of lands, but imagined that those studies would help them. Therefore the prophets called them “fools and dolts.”

Rambam, following the rationalist approach, held that there is no such thing as spontaneous reward and punishment, which God each time chooses to insert into the world. Rather, the mitzvot are the path to intellectual, moral and societal perfection, while aveirot detract from that. To the extent that there is reward and punishment, it is the natural consequence of one's actions. Thus, Rambam's view is that the people were pursuing astrology - which he explains to be the root of idolatry - and as a natural consequence, did not engage in the material, worldly efforts that would have helped them have a defensible kingdom. Rambam is not arguing with the idea that the Destruction was a punishment for idolatry; rather, he is explaining what, in his view, this actually means. They lost because they were militarily weak; and they were militarily weak because they focused on bad theology rather than on genuine wisdom.

I think that Rambam's view fits perfectly with what we are seeing today. It does not require any special insight to see what the entire world is relying on, what is helping, and what will finally end this mess.

It's medical science.

In contrast to the rabbis claiming that this pandemic teaches us to lower our respect for science, I think it clearly teaches us to raise our respect for it. We are relying on medical science to help us know which dangerous behaviors to avoid. People who contract coronavirus are being helped by ventilators, medications, and other results of medical science. And we are all awaiting medical science to develop better cures and a vaccine. Nobody is expecting this to be like the Black Death, or the various plagues of cholera or smallpox, precisely because of modern science.

To this, one could add that the entire problem has been exacerbated by a lack of taking medical science into account. As the Sages say, "Who is wise? He that foresees that which will happen." There have been various experts warning about the risks of a global pandemic, or even about the basic shortage of medical equipment and hospital beds in various countries, and the people in charge didn't listen to them (which in turn is partly the fault of the general public for not caring enough).

So, following Rambam's approach to the Destruction, here we would say similarly. There's no need to view it as a punishment, in the popular understanding of the concept, but rather to see the consequences of ignoring God's laws of the universe. We've learned, the hard way, that we need to be better planned for the future. And we've learned, the hard way, that we need to care much more about advances in medical science.

May all the sick recover; may all those who have suffered losses find solace. And may all of us who survive, care enough to live more wisely in the future.

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A reminder: Coronavirus has not stopped the Biblical Museum of Natural History from inspiring and educating people! We've been running live online tours for the last week, and they've been fantastic! As well as a brief "Highlights" tour, we also have six in-depth tours of different halls. You can sign up for our Pesach tours at www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org/live. Please share the word!

61 comments:

  1. Mitzvos are a tool for intellectual perfection? Moral perfection, yes. But if you believe that Torah and mitzvos produce people more likely to come up with better military strategy, you're advocating for Daas Torah!

    This post also comes dangerously close to Deism.

    Besides, you have to do something with the gemara that blames sin'as chinam. Or the one that blames churban bayis rishon on the three yeihareig ve'al ya'avos sins. Or the one that blames it on not saying birkhas haTorah.

    I would prefer to speak about taking a lesson from a tragedy than finding its causes. If the CoVID-19 epidemic gets you thinking about how one person's influence can reach 2 or 3 and then 7 and then... geometrically, so that by the end of the day (8 contacts) 1,000 people would be infected, why not spend that thought on not speaking LH?

    If it makes you feel unsettled, out of control, then perhaps use that to develop bitachon and believe that G-d has a Plan that goes somewhere positive?

    And stop even bother debating about rabbis who think they have prophectic knowledge of Hashem's reasons.

    I like Ishai Ribo's approach in his recent composition "Keter Malkhus". All questions, no answers. R YB Soloveitchik, with his notion that some questions are dialectic with no synthesis, resolution or answer. As he put it (roughly), chuqim come up in history, not only halakhah.

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    1. It seems to me that the obsession with Lashon Hara / Sinat Chinam (and its supposed consequences) is an affliction particular to the Haredi community. The Gemara sources focusing on these types of behaviour and 48 years of shul attendance and interactions with other Jews seems to confirm this as a self-fulfilling circular prophecy particular to Jews. The 'Orthodox' have internalized this rhetoric and it has numbed them. Anecdotally, my gentile acquaintances seem far less inclined to casual prejudice and hearsay and are also less inclined to take offence. The 'secular' offense of contravening norms of decency not anchored in faith (or its extreme form in 'Political Correctness') and so despised by Theists and 'Conservatives' is actually a far more effective social norm than the supposed consequences outlined in the sources we hold to be essentially striaght from Hashem.

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    2. No, not Daas Torah. The Talmud was not designed to be studied in solitude, rather people need to use their study to improve. The perfect man, a prophet, is a human who is morally right, intelligent, and has a strong imagination (Maimonides).

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    3. "Besides, you have to do something with the gemara that blames sin'as chinam. Or the one that blames churban bayis rishon on the three yeihareig ve'al ya'avos sins. Or the one that blames it on not saying birkhas haTorah"

      Are you talking to the Rambam? I don't think he's still alive.
      And he knew all those gemaras.

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  2. Slifkin has "to do something with the Gemaras etc.??" That's the Rambam's issue not Slifkin's.

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    1. (This reply was meant for Berger.) The fact is that the Rambam for whatever reason at times (perhaps often?) ignores Aggadeta Gemaras. He seems to be doing that in this case. For another example, he writes that R' Elazar ben Azaryah looked old because he learned with such toil and diligence, unlike the miracle famously recorded in the Gemara.

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  3. See R' Norman Lamm Hagadah on "huh lach m'anya" Eating matza demonstrates NOT to rely on science and technology but on God.

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    1. Of course. But he means like our bread we eat. Without it we know we'll die. But do we have Faith In it? O

      course not.

      But rely on what it provides we do.

      Science is your bread. It'll save you. But it's just a tool of constant discoveries in an endless unknown universe.

      It's not a diety (god) in itself. As that's impossible.

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  4. As usual, Natan, you have it correct but you take it to an extreme conclusion, as per your agenda. It is easy to play Monday-morning quarterback and claim that this is all about a lack of respect for science. However, other than the issue of the extent of contagiousness of the disease, science is scrambling. The spread of the disease could be mitigated by following the experts' guidance, but the existence of the virus and its as-of-yet not understood nature cannot be explained as a consequence of lack of respect for science. There is a more holistic, broader minded and hearted way of looking at things and when one learns Hazal and Rambam with such an approach, the mind and heart open up to other, broader possibilities. There were plagues in the Torah in which it is clear the message was not "have more respect for science." There are other, broader concerns that do come to play. I agree that there is a strong lesson to be learned specifically with regard to the obvious natural consequences of not heeding the advice of the experts and the orders of the government's. I also agree with you that the broad lack of respect for the opinions of real experts is an outcome of a fundamentally self-projected view of reality that has infected all religiously minded people. But that is exactly the underlying issue with all idolatry.

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    1. Yahu said: "....but the existence of the virus and its as-of-yet not understood nature cannot be explained as a consequence of lack of respect for science."

      Actually it very much can be explained in that manner. The Chinese authorities - knowing the leap these viruses tend to make from the non-human 'animal' realm into the human realm - have struggled to restrict and monitor poor hygienic and cultural practices that science has long known to be triggers for pandemics and endemics.

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  5. It surely comes into several positive Mitsvos to improve science knowledge. But:
    - Who is asking the causes of the plague? Someone is a prophet today? The only subject is taking a lesson how improving one's deed following plague.
    - Why is it necessary to mention other view and denigrate them (through audacious allusions)? Surely a bit of Avak Lachon Hara, according to Hafetz Haim [maybe not according to Rambam?]. No one acts such a way in nowadays situation. Even more if our Talmud is comforting such point of view. The Rambam may disaccord, it's still point of vue of other richonim.
    - I think maybe kvod Harav didn't want to speak about some michnayiot in Taanis, calling everyone to improve his deeds in case of plague.
    Rambam (taaniot 2,1) states that in case of war, plague, and so, we need to do all the process stated there [fasting...]. There is no mention of improving our war and medicine abilities because it's evident, therefore he stated others things people have to take lesson and improve themselves.

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  6. Great great post. Kol hakavod

    One quibble. The reason this is not like black death or smallpox has little to do with modern science. It has to do with modern science in as much as smallpox was eradicated through science as was black death controlled. But this is a more or leas brand new virus to humans and there is no particular reason (other than luck, providence whatever) that it’s mortality rate is so low. Yes science is keeping it artificially somewhat lower through respirators etc, but the inherent difference between this and smallpox is basically luck. Next time we may not be as lucky (or we may be luckier like we were last time, but what about the time after that...)

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  7. Kvod Harav, please don't censor.

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  8. Thank you Rabbi Slifkin for another excellent essay! This information is imperative for more people to know. In short, I agree with the rabbi. Rambam certainly held many rational views, one of them was that the world works according to the laws of nature that G-d created, and that reward and punishment does not occur save the natural consequence, which goes to say that the loss of the temples was due to a lack of military training, not divine retributions. Rambam also felt it was necessary to develop the intellect, writing that this perfection is peremptory to be really human. In fact, he stressed this even more so than one's care in Torah observance (this does not delute the mitzvot as they influence people to improve). Thus, Rambam emphasized the study of science and considered it a mitzvah.

    The rabbi is certainly right that we are so lucky to live in a wonderful age were preventive medicine saves lives. Without modern medicine, the cases would be much worse, as the Black Death. One way to encourage the perfection of medicine is to encourage the study of the sciences and to diminish views of divine anger, G-d does not become angry. One might ask: how can G-d punish people because of G-d’s disappointment in humans if G-d has no human emotions (Maimonides) (I do not think that G-d has emotions). Thus, coronavirus, like the flood, is a natural event. The Torah ascribes it to G-d because G-d is the ultimate source since G-d created the laws of nature (Maimonides in his Guide 2:48, that).

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  9. How can you ingnore the rambam in the beginning of hilchos taanis (obviously more authoritative then the letter quoted) that codifies the mandated halachik response to such tragedies - namely, soul searching and assuming its because of our misdeeds, and a call for teshuva?
    not that we can say what the exact cause was (as we don't have nevuah) but we are supposed to do our best to improve in our ways.

    not to mention the vast amount of sources in chazal and rishonim to the same effect.
    its seems that you are completely missing the point.
    Daniel Fischer

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    1. Yes,Rambam says to make teshuva and to assume it is people's fault for not making a strong military.

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  10. Why don't you quote the more applicable Rambam - in Hilchat Taanot?

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  11. So, destruction of Sdom and Hamora, as well as mabul were "natural consequences"?

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    1. @Lazer I agree with Maimonides that the Torah ascribes natural events to G-d since G-d is the ultimate cause since God created the laws of nature. I see the flood and Sodom as a natural events. Furthermore, Rqmbam feels that God has emotions. I do not think that God has emotions. Thus it makes no sense that G-d would be disappointed at humans and punish them since G-d does not get angry.

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    2. @Lazer I agree with Maimonides that the Torah ascribes natural events to G-d since G-d is the ultimate cause since God created the laws of nature. I see the flood and Sodom as natural events. Furthermore, Rambam feels that God has no emotions. I do not think that God has emotions. Thus it makes no sense that G-d would be disappointed at humans and punish them since G-d does not get angry.

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  12. Wow.
    In general I'm very sympathetic to Rabbis Slifkin's point of view but I feel that with this post he has gone to far.
    Its a pretty fundamental principle in rabinic Judaism that the reaction to tragedies such as the caronavirus is inspecting our deeds and doing teshuva. Just look at the rambam right at the start of הלכות תענית that says so explicitly. The idea that what we should be taking out of this is to care about the advances of medical science is simply not the traditional jewish response. Of course we have to do hishtadlus and follow medical advice etc. etc. but our focus should definitely be on introspection as well.
    No mainstream orthodox rabbi (whether charedi, dati leum, modern orthodox) would sign off on this post. Please consider retracting it.
    Joshua Miller

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  13. So a number of people are raising a question on this post from Rambam in Hilchos Taanis. I must confess that I don't see the problem, just as I don't see any conflict between what Rambam writes in Hilchos Taanis and what he wrote to the Jews of Marseilles. As Rambam says, when tragedies happen, we must not just brush them off; rather, we have to engage in soul-searching and introspection as to what our sins could have been in causing it. With the churban, Rambam does precisely this, and says that it was a neglect of military preparedness. With coronavirus, I proposed the similar wrongdoing of a neglect of medical preparedness. Just because it doesn't sound like a "frum" sin, does not mean that it isn't a sin!

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    1. Yes, I just finished saying the same thing. Rambam says that the sin was not building a military, or, in this case, not developing medical technology to deal sufficient enough with he virus. That is, I assume, the sin.

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    2. according to you why does the rambam there say that the response should include fasting, praying etc.? how does that help if its not a punishment, rather just consequences of ignoring the rules of nature?
      Joshua Miller

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    3. Because, according to Rambam, fasting and praying is what helps people (A) be human beings, feeling connected to the community and so on, and (B) contemplate what their sins are.

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    4. See Menachem Kellner's essay on Rambam's concept of reward and punishment at http://www.zootorah.com/RationalistJudaism/MAJBAAppendixRewardPunishment.pdf

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    5. The Rambam gives a rational explanation for the destruction of the Temple because a rational explanation makes perfect sense in that case. It would be irrational to believe that the Jews would defeat the Romans militarily. In the case of Tannis for lack of rain etc, Rambam say one should fast and do teshuva for sins because we should NOT seek to define tragedies as "natural events."
      I think the coronavirus is an unusual "out of nowhere" event. It is a tragedy akin to those mentioned in Hilchos Taanis. It's unfair to place blame on "lack of preparedness" as there was no evidence (or likelihood) of something like this ever happening.

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    6. It was so unlikely that 5 years ago Bill Gates gave it a more than 50% chance of happening. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AEMKudv5p0

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    7. @Avi Katz How come Bill Gates predicted it 5 yrs ago (not corona but that there will be a virus at some point)? He expressed his concerns to the Obama administration [the gov.] but they took no notice partly because we, the people, took no notice. Looks a lot like a lack of preparedness to me.

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    8. "Because, according to Rambam, fasting and praying is what helps people (A) be human beings, feeling connected to the community and so on, and (B) contemplate what their sins are."

      The prayers include things like שומע צעקה and המרחם על הארץ (as Rambam himself rules!). You accomplish neither (A) nor (B) if you say those things without believing them.

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    9. I agree with you 100% Rabbi Slifkin, and I'm not sure I understand where all these mamby pamby "all my rabbis wouldn't agree with your statement" "please retract this" type of comments are coming from. What is their motivation behind that?

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    10. Bill Gates actually predicted a FLU STRAIN pandemic (akin to H1N1), so no he didn't predict this and he didn't warn of PPE shortages (because flu doesn't cause this kind of massive rush on ICU's and ventilator systems, only the chance secondary infections of severe cases end up there, whereas with wuhan coronavirus it's direct attack on the lungs by the virus meaning ALL the most severe cases get pneumonia and need oxygen). Maybe that's why no one really took much action on stockpiles across 3 administrations. Because no one really had the imagination required to envision something we had zero experience with. This is a coronavirus strain that directly attacks the lungs through ACE2 receptor, and one with asymptomatic spread! No one imagined this.

      Even those former govt officials who now claim they warned and tried to tell people etc - They wrote papers on the concept of pandemic and that one would come. They didn't take action. They didn't build the stockpile or order any ventilators. They didn't craft a nationwide testing system and request the resources for one or plan one. They didn't REALLY prepare for this during their time in govt like they want you to believe. More accurately they prepared for a SARS-like situation and focused work on aid to other countries to stop pandemics elsewhere and prevent them from reaching here. That was the focus of the previous "pandemic team" everyone keeps raving about that accomplished nothing. They accomplished nothing for WUHAN virus because no one imagined WUHAN virus.

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  14. Rambam never said the churban main reason was because of neglicting war preparedness. Total falsification, and misunderstanding I think, Rambam only points out how much Avoda Zara didn't help, until the point they were not able to defend themself against ennemy. This is Rambam way in lot's of places. Any other explanation is contradicted by the whole neviim who complain of evil acts of Israel, not only because of neglect of military preparedness.
    Anyway, this would not explain Churban Bayit cheni, where there was no Avoda Zara.

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  15. See Menachem Kellner's essay on Rambam's concept of reward and punishment at http://www.zootorah.com/RationalistJudaism/MAJBAAppendixRewardPunishment.pdf

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    1. Kellener is saying something completely different to you as phat in rambam. He agrees with our understanding of him in the yad hachazaka - namely that he is saying the traditional understanding of punishment. he just thinks that rambam holds that the torah wants us to believe these untrue beliefs because its beneficial for the unsophisticated masses.
      Joshua Miller

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  16. How do you explain fasting due to a lack of rain (which is the primary description of fasts in the Mishnah)? According to the way you describe it, that would make sense nowadays because, sadly, we do influence the climate, but it didn't make sense then!

    Are you saying that והיה אם שמוע was a prophecy that didn't apply until more than 3000 years after it was given and was completely misinterpreted by everyone, including Rambam, until the Industrial Revolution?

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  17. Why did God send the Corona Virus? Invoking rationalism isn’t going to provide you the answer because there is no answer to an unfalsifiabile question. Theology isn’t going to provide you the answer because you have so many of your co-religionists invoking their flavor of Orthodoxy to explain away this world-wide plague. So many apologists and excuses for God’s wrath. Your rationalist mitigation is no better than theirs because it explains nothing.
    However there is an answer which explains everything. It’s called Occam’s Razor.

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    1. Occam’s Razor says that when, for example, there are two possibilities the simplest is generally correct. Either G-d is punishing people “because of their sins” and for no other reason or, we failed to prepare medicine (Maimonides). In this case, the latter approach seems more likely.

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    2. Occam’s Razor provides the answer to the ponderous unfalsifiable theologicaly based solutions to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. However you’re not employing it properly because the only possibility that delineates Occam is that this plague is an accident of evolution and history. The simplest solution to the source of the pandemic is God’s absence.

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    3. I agree with Maimonides that G-d is transcendent. Therefore, I do not think G-d is involved with worldly affairs. But G-d's silence allows humans to use their free will. This was why G-d was not seemingly present during the holocaust. Not because He is indifferent. Rather, if G-d were clearly present it would undermine the very purpose of free will. We need to make repentance (prepare medicine) for this and future pandemics. I think this is an accurate representation of Occam's Razor.

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  18. To quote the great Carl Sagan z"l:" a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a creator to do."

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  19. I think people are missing the point. According the the rationalist approach (se the end of the chapter from kellner's book brought by Rabbi Slifkin above), fundamental principles of judaism such as prayer, repentance and reward/punishment are presented by god (and following him the sages and rambam) in the traditional way of understanding them (even though it isn't true) because its beneficial for the masses to belief that its true. believing in theses false things gets you to act in the way god wants. your heartfelt prayers are never heard nor answered. the nusach of tefila being supplication is only to manipulate you into thinking god is listening. repentance and fasting doesn't gain forgiveness and erasure of sins. you are not rewarded for your good deeds and are not punished for your bad - you either perfect your intellect or you don't. Its all one big manipulation.
    If you find this approach absurd (I always wondered what rationalists are thinking as they say the words of prayers such a S'hma koleinu) its because it is.
    A rational person has 3 choices - to reject this absurd religion. or to reject the rationalist approach to it. or, now that you know "the truth", drop all of these traditional aspects of judaism and replace them with intellectual contemplation. Knowing "the truth" but continuing to do all of these things knowing that they are fake is just absurd.
    Joshua Miller

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  20. two points
    1. introspection is always good. as R'YBS said don't ask why but what (does hkbh expect of me). if the current situation gives us cause to focus, then use it.

    2. I've seen a lot of comments similar to : There have been various experts warning about the risks of a global pandemic, or even about the basic shortage of medical equipment and hospital beds in various countries, and the people in charge didn't listen to them (which in turn is partly the fault of the general public for not caring enough).

    WADR IMHO this is a bit too simple. If one were to go back 5 years and look at all the "warnings" about possible future events (e.g. meteor hitting earth) and total up the contingency costs of preparing for all of them, I'm guessing the cost would be greater than society could bear. Picking winners in retrospect doesn't help, maybe formal risk analysis would.
    Chag Kasher V'sameach V['Bari

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  21. It's quite strange to suggest the internet is the reason for this plague considering the result of this plague is increased reliance on the internet and increased usage from our homes.

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  22. “Rambam, following the rationalist approach, held that there is no such thing as spontaneous reward and punishment, which God each time chooses to insert into the world”
    On a basic level yes. However there is also Rambam in Moreh 3:51 who talks at length about how increasing the quality and quantity of one’s mental focus on God (premised/enabled by proper character traits) leads to an individual providential relationship with God. The Avot and Moshe thus had every aspect of their lives being guided and protected by God. Take this passage for example:
    “If you happen to pass through a battlefield of drawn swords, you will go on your way with thousands being killed at your left hand and myriads at your right hand, no harm will be inflicted
    upon you…as it says: “A thousand will fall from your side, ten thousand at your right, but [the evil] will not befall you.”… Then it provides a reason for this great protection, saying that this person’s great providential protection is “Because he has set his exclusive love upon me, therefore shall rescue him, for he knows My name.” We have already explained that “knowing God’s name” refers to perceiving Him. The Psalm is therefore saying that this individual is protected because he perceives and passionately loves Me.”
    Of course this additional providential protection is hard to quantify and rely upon and we must work within the natural order and not rely on providence, but Rambam’s position is more nuanced than you have allowed for in the post.

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    1. @Unknown Yes, part 3, chapters 17 and 32 of the Guide seems to contradict part 3, chapter 51: "A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand; it [evil] shall not come near you... Because he has set his passionate love upon him, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he hath known my Name (Ps. 91:14). We have already explained in preceding chapters that knowledge of the Name is apprehension of Him." (Guide, 3:51)

      On a battlefield, thousands may fall, but the perfect one, the prophet, will remain safe. This contradicts part 3:17, where Rambam writes that wise people avoid dangerous situations because of their providence (intellect). How do we reconcile this with “a thousand shall fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but they shall not come close to you."?

      Rabbi Micah Goodman feels that we can reconcile this with Rambam's understanding of evil. According to Rambam, evil ceases when we stop recognize it. For example, Job stopped suffering when he understood that the world works according to the laws of nature and that they are good, only harming individuals because it is a necessary evil or pure chance, but nonetheless, not an intentional evil. Understanding evil in this way helps explains part 3, chapter 51. The wise person does not recognize the evil around him because he learned to live with it. Nonetheless, it is best if he avoids it as in part 3, chapters 17 and 32.

      It turns out that providence, according to the Rambam, is a natural event.

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  23. Are the museum tours in Hebrew or in English?

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  24. I only hope no one here will
    - teach his children at Pessah the Egyptians were not well prepared in technology, that's why they lost.
    - teach his children on Ticha Beav of Krav Maga and so.
    - teach his children on Roch Hachana ("Mi yeashir oumi Yeani") economics and trade speculation.
    And so... The way is so simple in order to never introspect oneself.

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    1. Maimonides felt that “G-d’s hand” did not literally smite the Egyptians. Rather, it means they were destroyed due to the laws of nature that G-d created. They weren’t prepared to go to war with Israel, did so anyway, and were swept away by the sea.

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    2. 'Maimonides felt that “G-d’s hand” did not literally smite the Egyptians. ' OK.
      'Rather, it means they were destroyed due to the laws of nature that G-d created. They weren’t prepared to go to war with Israel, did so anyway, and were swept away by the sea.' NO. It's your interpretation, written nowhere in Maimonide, and even against everyone. Please dont falsifiate.

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  25. How about these answers:
    1. We really don't know.
    2. Maybe it isn't God? If we are have free choice then a disaster like this if caused by God completely removes our free will.
    3. We can't test any answer we get, anyways, so why even bother asking the question? It's all speculation, based on guess work and referrals to the religious opinion of older sages, who didn't KNOW any better than we. They posed their assumptions (and NOT hypotheses) but again they could never really test their assumptions. That probably offends the religious sensibilities of others but so be it. I remain fully ignorant because NO one can really provide a (definitive) answer.

    I am more concerned with the question of, now that we are in this situation what are we going to do about it?

    I hope that everyone stays safe and healthy.

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    1. I partly disagree. Not all the sages were wrong. For example, the Rambam (Jewish sage) was correct when he said that G-d is not involved with the world and since G-d does not have human emotions, it is impossible that G-d caused coronavirus out of anger. Thus, coronavirus is a natural event. This is, I think, a definitive answer.

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    2. Because the Rambam feels that G-d has no emotions. I do not think that G-d has emotions. Thus it makes no sense that G-d would be disappointed at humans and punish them [with coronavirus, flood, or Sodom] since G-d does not become angry.

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    3. That is basically what I DID say. The only evidence that is testable is that the virus is a natural event. Speculating about the influence of God is impossible because we can never know. And even the Rambam (who is closer to this answer than others, according to your interpretation) still could not test his answer.

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  26. Rabbi, the last comment is blog spam, and you should erase it.

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    1. If you are referring to my post, it certainly wasn't "blogs spam". It was an attempt to show that the only answer that is testable is that the virus is a natural event, and we can never know of any other influence. Nice try at the censorship, though.

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  27. See Rambam Melachim 12,2 that one should not occupe himself with things that don't bring to Yir'a and Ahava. Clear enough I think.

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  28. The Rambam makes a point of rejecting Artistotelean eternity because it based on the assumption that G-d doesn't defry nature.

    The Ralbag, an Atistotelean who indeed doesn't believe G-d doesn't defy nature doesn't take the position you put in the Rambam's quill. To Aristo, physics isn't deterministic. Intellignces impart impetus to objects, which then move until the impetus run out. (No conservation law, since in our experience friction is always around to kill momentum.)

    In Quantum Mechanics, the process that produces mutations is out and put non-deterministic. There are no laws of nature forcing CoVID-19 to exist.

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    1. Paragraphs 2 and 3 need a rewrite. No clue what you're saying.

      But paragraph 1 is just wrong. Rambam rejects Aristotelian eternity only on the basis that it doesn't have what he considered proof behind it. He leaves open that if there was proof, Torah could be reinterpreted to be consistent with it. But it wasn't proven by Aristotle or the arguments of that time.

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    2. You are misreading the Rambam. He says there is nothing in the verses ruling out eternity. Just as there is nothing in the verses that must be read as G-d having a body. And therefore, has Aristo really proven eternity, we could interpret the verses accordingly.

      But the Rambam doesn't believe eternity could have been proven, because he holds the idea is false.

      Look at Moreh 2:25, and continue beyond the part you're talking about:

      WE do not reject the Eternity of the Universe, because certain passages in Scripture confirm the Creation; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which God is represented as a corporeal being; nor is it impossible or difficult to find for them a suitable interpretation. We might have explained them in the same manner as we did in respect to the Incorporeality of God. ... For two reasons, however, we have not done so, and have not accepted the Eternity of the Universe. First, the Incorporeality of God has been demonstrated by proof: those passages in the Bible, which in their literal sense contain statements that can be refuted by proof, must and can be interpreted otherwise. But the Eternity of the Universe has not been proved; a mere argument in favour of a certain theory is not sufficient reason for rejecting the literal meaning of a Biblical text, and explaining it figuratively, when the opposite theory can be supported by an equally good argument.

      Secondly, our belief in the Incorporeality of God is not contrary to any of the fundamental principles of our religion: it is not contrary to the words of any prophet. .... If we were to accept the Eternity of the Universe as taught by Aristotle, that everything in the Universe is the result of fixed laws, that Nature does not change, and that there is nothing supernatural, we should necessarily be in opposition to the foundation of our religion, we should disbelieve all miracles and signs, and certainly reject all hopes and fears derived from Scripture, unless the miracles are also explained figuratively.


      Since miracles are possible, the whole thesis of Aristotelian eternity fails.

      Back to the blog post... The Rambam does believe in Divine Intervention and even nature-defying miracles. Unlike the Ralbag. Who believes in miracles, but only those that fit Aristo's physics. Because Aristo's physics is non-deterministic, any intellect can cause things to happen at just the right time. (And that's a rephrase of my second paragraph.) There is no conflict between believing nature is inviolate and Divine Providence in Aristo physics altogether.

      As for #3.... Mutations are largely caused by cosmic rays and other quantum-sized events. Physics that is provably non-deterministic. So, a certain number of mutations must happen; but nature doesn't force this particular mutation happening at all, and not necessarily at a given time. There is room for Divine Providence even with an inviolate physics, given that QM indeterminism is correct.

      In this way, finding G-d's "Hand" in a pandemic is a very different than reading messages into astronomical phenomena. Because Einstein was wrong about QM, Der Herrgott würfelt tatsächlich -- Someone is indeed rolling dice with the universe, and those dice are loaded.

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  29. First of all before I begin I would like to make an official protest on one of our formost gedoley hador Reb elya ber wachtfogel is not just a random street corner Rabbi but someone who is a known master of the entire Torah someone steeped in holyness and purity for many years he is also known as a person who has character perfection there are endless stories of his sympathy for his fellow man which defy description while he never complains about his own difficult life it is actually a wonder that our generation merited having a person of such stature anyone who would meet Rabbi wachtfogel in real life would imedimmedia be embarrassed they ever considered such nonsense about such a great person these blogs and websites are for the naive and the blind so first of all disregard any nonsense you see because all of it is just rooted in personal hatred that Nathan slifkin has for Rabbi wachtfogel

    That being said I listened to the recording and Nathan slifkin completely misunderstood it Rabbi wachtfogel most certainly did say that this is a wake up call for all the spiritual damage that came about as a result of the internet this includes pornography actual znus and other breaches of kedushah it also includes lashon harah Rabbi wachtfogel said clearly that the main spiritual decline which is causef by the internet is on the younger generation meaning pornography etc as opposed to older people are generally not jerking off all night to porn so what happens dad doesn't get a filter because he doesn't need one so the son uses daddy's phone and gets sex addiction says Rabbi wachtfogel beutibeauti this is midah kineged midah and God is trying to give us a wake up call ( actually he was quoting reb chaim vital) because Corona is mainly a danger for the older generation and not for the younger but the younger generation doesn't care to be cautious to protect the older generation which is exactly what's happening with the older generation that they are negligent in matters of spirituality ( pornography etc) to the younger generation

    Rabbi wachtfogel also said that in addition there is another wake up call to take out of this and that is that the reason we find that this virus has spread to the whole world is because the internet has brought about the sin of loshon harah in a way never before imagined it spreads slander about rightous people from one end of the world to the other ( which is exactly what natan slifkin is doing to a tzadik and godol like Rabbi wachtfogel)

    Please please people do not be impressed by what you see in every generation we have those who try to undermine the tzadikim and talmiydey chachamim of the generation but the truth always wins at the end

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