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The most powerful weapon ever created

My dearest child,  

We spent billions of dollars developing and producing the deadliest weapon on earth —the hydrogen bomb—so that if anyone dared to harm you, we could keep you safe.   

We gathered the finest minds in the world to design the most advanced F16 fighter jet, capable of destroying an enemy thousands of miles away, so that you could go to school safely. 

We created the strongest army in the world, training millions of soldiers to be ready to face any enemy so that you could visit your grandparents anytime you wanted.

We devoted massive amounts of time, energy, and resources inventing the most powerful tanks, submarines, missiles, and guns, so that you could go to the park and play in peace. 

We spent years training the best doctors and building the greatest hospitals and research programs, so that if you ever became sick we would know how to heal you.

Now, my beloved child, despite all this, we find ourselves powerless and unequipped to stave off the invisible monster, COVID-19. 

But let me assure you, we have one weapon left in our arsenal. One superpower we can still use. It can penetrate deeper than a nuclear bomb. Its power is greater than the mightiest army. It can destroy what tanks, missiles and submarines cannot.

What is this weapon, you ask? 

Prayer.

When we pray from the depths of our hearts, the virus stands no chance. If we band together and beseech G-d for mercy, corona cannot prevail. 

This weapon has a proven track record. Our ancestors used it, and so did their ancestors, all the way back for thousands of years. 

So now, dear child, let’s pray together, continuing the legacy of those who came before us. Let’s say Shema together, read some Psalms, put on tefillin and make sure the mezuzot on our doors are kosher, talk to G-d in our own words and beg him to eradicate this devastating coronavirus and heal all those already afflicted. 

And, dear child, let us pray that He bring the Final Redemption with Moshiach, when all evil, suffering, and illness will be banished from the world.

Take heed, my child. The power is ours. Let’s embrace it. Together, we can accomplish the impossible. 

Your loving father

*Written by Rabbi Uriel Vigler

Manhattan NYC*

Dear Satan

You’ve tried hard to make our lives miserable. 

First, you forced us to stop greeting each other with handshakes, hugs, kisses and even fist bumps, and you know how much we absolutely love greeting one another.

Then you forced us to cancel (or minimize) our Purim celebrations, knowing full well how much joy and exuberance Purim brings us.

You’ve forced us to cancel our Pesach plans, (which we’ve already put so much money into,) a time when we usually gather with our extended families and friends for an infusion of joy that lasts well into the rest of the year.

You forced us to cancel all travel and most day-to-day outings and isolate ourselves at home.  

You even precluded us from attending weddings, engagements, bar and bat mitzvahs and other celebrations, and you know how much we love to celebrate and say l’chaim!

But this week, you took it too far. You forced us to close our shuls—G-d’s home! This is the center of our Judaism and the place we communicate with G-d. It’s where we set ourselves aside and focus solely on Him. I cannot remember a single Shabbat in my life that I intentionally stayed home from shul. Having to send out the message to my congregation that there will be no shul, cholent, or Kiddush for the foreseeable future broke my heart.

But let me tell you, Satan, you failed miserably at your mission. Instead of separating us, your social distancing has brought us so much closer together. In our isolation, we have increased our concern for one another. Through social media, our Torah classes are reaching larger and more attuned audiences than ever. 

Our hearts are filled with love for one another; our spirit can never be broken. Our souls are fired up.

So now, it’s time to acknowledge that you have failed miserably. We will appeal to your boss, our dear Father in Heaven, to fire you. You’ve tried hard, I’ll give you that, but success is out of reach. It’s time to call it quits, end this plague and tell your boss to send Moshiach, as we have certainly earned.

This week, when we read the parshah at home alone, without our Torah scrolls, we will read about the mitzvah to build the Mishkan, a sanctuary for G-d. We may not be in our shuls, our sanctuaries, but we have built sanctuaries in our hearts with a light that can never be extinguished.

You lose, Satan, you lose. We are the eternal winners.

The Entire World Is at War!

I know we’re at war because the entire world is in a state of elevated panic and anxiety.

I know we’re at war because dozens of airports and airlines across the world have shuttered.

I know we’re at war because the stock market is wildly fluctuating, dipping frighteningly.

I know we’re at war because my kids’ schools (and many others) have all been cancelled indefinitely.

I know we’re at war because streets and subways are empty.

I know we’re at war because people are quarantined at home.

But for the first time in history of wars… I cannot see, touch, feel, smell, hear, or taste my enemy. All I know is its name: Coronavirus. It’s a brand new kind of war.

I don’t know who my enemy is, so I will endeavor to remain six feet away from every human being on the planet, just in case.

I don’t know where my enemy is, so I will stay away from every institution just in case.

I don’t know when my enemy will attack, so I must remain alert at all times.

I don’t know what my enemy is, so I’ll make sure to wash my hands obsessively at every opportunity.

I don’t understand why this enemy is attacking, so I’ll beseech G-d to vanquish this invisible monster.

But as new as this war is, it’s actually a war as old as time.

As Jews, we’ve been engaged in this kind of war since the dawn of civilization. You see, we are in perpetual battle with the forces of evil; another enemy we cannot see, touch, feel, smell, hear, or taste. We know only its name: the yetzer hara, the evil inclination.

We don’t know who the enemy is, so we try to make sure that our own immediate 6 feet surrounding is a place of holiness and purity.

We don’t know where that enemy is either, so we hang out in shul to pray and study Torah where we know we will be safe.

We don’t know when the enemy will attack, so we remain on high alert all day, starting with morning prayers, ending with the evening Shema.

We don’t know what this enemy is, so we make sure to wash our hands obsessively when we wake up in the morning, before eating bread, and after using the restroom.

And certainly, we can’t understand why the enemy strikes, so we pray devotedly to G-d, beseeching him to remove all evil from the world and bring Moshiach.

So let’s fight both wars simultaneously!

Let’s check in on the vulnerable and isolated. If you have elderly friends, relatives, or neighbors (or people who are otherwise isolated and susceptible), please check in on them. Offer to do their grocery and pharmacy shopping, or to drive them to appointments for which they would otherwise rely on public transport. Think creatively.  

And let us pray to our dear Father in heaven for all those who are suffering from Coronavirus and other illnesses. May we know only health and healing.

My Week In The Safari

This week I spent a few days on safari in Africa. As one who was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa, most of my childhood vacations were centered around animals and I wanted my children to share my love for that experience. 

We were able to get up close and personal with the lions, patting and interacting with them. I had to ask the guard multiple times if it was safe and he reassured me again and again that it was. But I was still scared, especially when I noticed we had to sign waivers taking responsibility for ourselves in case anything happened. 

What convinced me to go ahead and enter the den was the size of our group. With 10 people and two lions, I figured that although I obviously couldn’t outrun the lions, I could probably outrun the other people!

In the middle, our guide quipped, “Ok, who wants to run to the gate?” and explained that when interacting with lions (and most other wild animals), it is paramount that you show absolutely no fear. Running would be a terrible mistake. Lions are predators, and as soon as they sense your fear they will rip you to pieces. 

We were given the same warning when we interacted with the baboons and elephants. Hide your fear. Temper your tone of voice, your gaze, and the way you stand. These animals are stronger and faster than we are. But if you are confident, you will be fine. 

It made me think of the Purim megillah, which we’ll be reading this Monday night and Tuesday. The Jews had a formidable and ruthless enemy. Haman. How did Mordechai react? He refused to bow down. He stood confidently as a Jew and inspired the rest of the nation to do the same. We cannot show fear to our anti-Semitic opponents. 

The Code of Jewish Law tells us the same thing: Wake up every morning like a lion to serve G-d. Go and pray and put on tefillin and study Torah. Don’t give in to your evil inclination. Be strong. Be proud. Be recognizable. 

Wherever we go, it should be recognizable that we are Jewish. Every person who comes into contact with you should know that you are honest and kind. In fact, the Talmud tells us that the first question we are asked upon our arrival in the Heavenly court is “Were you honest in business?”

Don’t be embarrassed to put on tefillin in public or make known that you only eat kosher food. Don’t be afraid to close your business for Shabbat and holidays. Hashem will provide. You will be surprised how understanding your partners and co-workers will be. 

It’s imperative that we stand confident and proud in our Jewish identity and observance. That is the strongest safety net we can build. 

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