Thoughts from Self-Isolation: A D'var Israel from Gal
Beth Tzedec
Mar 26th 2020

People tend to question some of the things that they hear. We want to make sure that we are right, that we checked all the options and then conclude what makes the most sense. That’s who we are. It is natural.

2,300 years ago there was a consensus that the earth was flat, until the Greek philosopher Aristotle doubted it and was the first to prove that it was wrong. 

You can see this questioning until today in a lot of subjects: life outside of the earth, creatures in the ocean's depths, myths, legends, people’s stories and even religions.

I was born to a Zionist family and grew up with faith in Israel and less faith in God. Growing up in Israel, where you have a large variety of people, mean I was often asked, ‘’Do you believe in God?’’. I found myself hesitating between yes, no and I don’t know.

Like Aristotle, I was questioning a lot of things. I questioned religion in general, Judaism and also atheism. Was the world created exactly like in the Bible? What about the Big Bang Theory? Is there even any God? Where does the power of life come from?

On one hand, I have always tended to listen to my father, who is a complete atheist. It felt very comfortable and reasonable to lean on the science. On the other hand, I assume the words of the Torah mean a lot, especially because it is so ancient. Is it okay to call myself Jewish while my beliefs are not exactly according to Judaism?

The years passed and I was about to have my Bar Mitzvah. The day came and I was in a synagogue, wore a tallit, a kippah, knew very well how to read from the Torah and everything went great and lovely. But deep inside, I felt a little bit hypocritical. How can I celebrate my Jewish Bar Mitzvah if I am not that specific about my beliefs?

Five years later and there is a serious pandemic in the world that caused me to fly immediately to Israel and remain in self quarantine in my room for 14 days, separated from my family while being so close to them, and connecting to you from home. I’m writing this D'var Israel right now, and this situation obviously makes me question.

Around 22,000 people around the world have died, about half a million are diagnosed and the whole world is in a panic. Right now, in Israel, you are not allowed to leave the house unless it’s really necessary. How does any of this make sense? Does the world deserve it?

The world stopped. People are on a break from their daily lives, learning to appreciate the basic things they have in life. The world is healing. Humans have temporarily stopped taking advantage of nature. In China, the empire of industries and factories, there is an amazing change in the air pollution. The water in Venice is finally clear and dolphins have come back to visit Italy’s beaches. You could see deer in the streets of Japan and monkeys in the streets of Thailand. In Israel, there is a 30% improvement in the air quality.

It seems like we are the real virus.

The world is getting too crowded, our climate is changing and there are more problems that humans create. When it crosses some red line of hurting nature, the world saves itself. Like other natural disasters, I believe the COVID-19 is a way for the world to protect itself and to maintain this balance that keeps us alive.

I can tell you now that I believe in this balance. In the world. In nature. I believe in people and in good actions that can make the world a better place. I think there is a "guiding hand", something that maintains the balance in the world. Maybe it is according to Judaism, maybe it is different. I just feel that I don’t know enough to have one accurate version. Maybe I should not know at all, and probably never will.

Yet, I define myself as Jewish. I grew up Jewish, my family history is part of the history of the Jewish nation, I studied Judaic studies for 12 years. I have family members who died in the Holocaust and I carry their pain until now. I speak Hebrew and live according to the Jewish culture and values. I am going to raise my kids as Jews. Judaism is the uniting bridge between all of us, whether you are ultra-Orthodox or secular.

I hope the COVID-19 situation will end as quickly as possible.

Everything happens for a reason.

Toda raba, Shabbat shalom and stay healthy!

Gal Goren