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Coronavirus in the traditional sources.

What do our sages say in the Talmud, Halacha, Kabbalah, Chassidut and Musar that can help give us some insight into what is happening now?


Understanding the Novel Coronavirus in light of Selected Talmud, Halachah, Musar, Kabbalah and Chassidus Texts

by Eliezer Shemtov

The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken up all of humanity on many levels as never before.

Philosophical, psychological, economic, political and other systems that people had built based on solid premises have all crumbled or have been put on standby. The only scientific fact that has been proven these days is that everything we know is subject to change.

There are many questions that people ask regarding the present situation. Can the Torah help us?

We will explore some sources that might help us deal with the following questions:

1. Does the Talmud say anything regarding practical precautions one must take during an epidemic?

2. What should our attitude be regarding doctor's recommendations?

3. How does one balance belief in G-d's providence, omnipotence and benevolence with medical authority?

4. Is there anything one can do on a spiritual dimension to enhance whatever is being done on a physical level to protect ourselves?

5. What is the relationship between what happens "down here" and what happens "up there"?

6. Is the pandemic a punishment? A lesson? A sign?

7. Is there anything we can do —on a spiritual, cosmic level— to neutralize the spiritual

source of the pandemic, thereby influencing its impact here on earth?

8. How can we grow from this experience?

To begin with, our sages tell us that there is nothing that happens in the world that is not hinted to in the Torah.

ד) כַּמָה תַּקִּיף חֵילָא דִּשְׁמָא קַדִּישָׁא, תַּקִּיפָא בְּכָל אַרְעָא, וְכַמָּה חֲבִיבִין מִלֵּי דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא, דְּלֵית לָךְ מִלָּה זְעֵירָא דְּלָא תִּשְׁכַּח לָהּ בְּאוֹרַיְיתָא

זוהר ג׳, רכא, א

There is no thing [too] small that will not be found in the Torah.

Zohar 3:221a

Let's begin with some practical, timely as well as timeless, advice regarding behavior when there is a plague raging:

Stay home and don't venture out no matter how claustrophobic you might be and how strong the temptation to get out and get some relief by sharing your misery in the company of some friends:

ת"ר דבר בעיר כנס רגליך שנאמר ואתם לא תצאו איש מפתח ביתו עד בקר ואומר (ישעיהו כו, כ) לך עמי בא בחדריך וסגור דלתיך בעדך ואומר (דברים לב, כה) מחוץ תשכל חרב ומחדרים אימה

מאי ואומר וכי תימא ה"מ בליליא אבל ביממא לא תא שמע לך עמי בא בחדריך וסגור דלתיך

וכי תימא ה"מ [היכא] דליכא אימה מגואי אבל היכא דאיכא אימה מגואי כי נפיק יתיב ביני אינשי בצוותא בעלמא טפי מעלי ת"ש מחוץ תשכל חרב ומחדרים אימה אע"ג דמחדרים אימה מחוץ תשכל חרב

בבא קמא ס, ב

§ The Sages taught: If there is plague in the city, gather your feet, i.e., limit the time you spend out of the house, as it is stated in the verse: “And none of you shall go out of the opening of his house until the morning.” And it says in another verse: “Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself for a little moment, until the anger has passed by” (Isaiah 26:20). And it says: “Outside the sword will bereave, and in the chambers terror” (Deuteronomy 32:25).

The Gemara asks: What is the reason for citing the additional verses introduced with the term: And it says? The first verse seems sufficient to teach the principle that one should not emerge from one’s house when there is a plague. The Gemara answers: And if you would say that this matter, the first verse that states that none of you shall go out until morning, applies only at night, but in the day one may think that the principle does not apply, for this reason the Gemara teaches: Come and hear: “Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors behind you.”

And if you would say that this matter applies only where there is no fear inside, which explains why it is preferable to remain indoors, but where there is fear inside, one might think that when he goes out and sits among people in general company it is better, therefore, the Gemara introduces the third verse and says: Come and hear: “Outside the sword will bereave, and in the chambers terror.” This means that although there is terror in the chambers, outside the sword will bereave, so it is safer to remain indoors.

Bava Kama 60b

The primary source for this Talmudic passage is Isaiah 26:20.

לֵ֤ךְ עַמִּי֙ בֹּ֣א בַחֲדָרֶ֔יךָ וּֽסְגֹ֥ר דלתיך [דְּלָתְךָ֖] בַּעֲדֶ֑ךָ חֲבִ֥י כִמְעַט־רֶ֖גַע עַד־יעבור־[יַעֲבָר־] זָֽעַם׃

ישעיהו כו, כ

Go, my people, enter your chambers, And lock your doors behind you. Hide but a little moment, Until the indignation passes.

(Isaiah 26:20)

Rashi's commentary on the verse is very insightful. He quotes several sources that serve to broaden our understanding of what "going inside" and "closing the door" means, beyond the practical safety measure of quarantine or preventive self-isolation.

לך עמי בא בחדריך. תשובה זו השיבהו לנביא לך עמי בא בחדריך בבתי כנסיות ובבתי מדרשות, ד"א התבונן על מעשיך בחדרי לבך כך דרש רבי תנחומא

וסגור דלתך בעדך. ת"י עביד לך עובדין טבין דיגנון עלך ורבי תנחומא דרש סגור דלתי פיך שלא תהרהר אחר מדת הדין:

Go, my people, enter your chambers:... enter your houses of prayer and study. Another interpretation: reflect upon your behavior in the chambers of your heart. So explained Rabbi Tanchuma.

And lock your doors behind you: Targum Yonatan (explains): Do good deeds that will protect you. Rabbi Tanchuma taught: Close the doors of your mouth; do not question (G-d's) measure of justice.

The question many have is this:

Why should we even care about the physical danger? Isn't G-d in charge and able to do whatever He desires? If I trust in Him, why bother with heeding doctors' warnings?

The Pele Yoetz in the following excerpted texts gives a very insightful explanation regarding how to juggle faith in G-d and respect for doctors.

וכשיש דבר בעיר חס ושלום, יקים דברי חכמינו זכרונם לברכה שאמרו (ב''ק ס, ב) כנס רגליך, או יברח לו והיתה לו נפשו לשלל, דכתיב (ישעיה כו כ) חבי כמעט רגע עד יעבר זעם. ואל יאמר אדם כדעת הישמעאלים הטפשים שאומרים (תהלים קכז, א) אם ה' לא ישמר עיר שוא שקד שומר, ואין נסתר מחמתו, ואין מידו מציל כתיב (ירמיהו טז יט) כי אך שקר נחלו כי הוא צוה ונשמרתם, וכתיב (ישעיהו כו כ) לך עמי בא בחדריך. והתרוץ לזה כתבתי לעיל בערך רפואה, עין שם, דשלשה מיני גזרות יש, ואנחנו לא נדע ועלינו לעשות מה שמטל עלינו, והשם, הטוב בעיניו הוא יעשה

פלא יועץ ש״ע

(Pele Yoetz 370 No translation available. Yet.)

רפואה - אמרו רבותינו זכרונם לברכה (שמות כא יט) ורפא ירפא. מכאן שנתנה תורה רשות לרופא לרפאות (ברכות ס, א). ועוד אמרו על הפסוק (דברים כח נט): וחלים רעים ונאמנים. שהם נאמנים בשליחותן (רש''י שם), שבשעה ששולחין אותן גוזרים עליהם שלא יצאו אלא ביום פלוני, ביד פלוני, על ידי סם פלוני (ילקוט שמעוני יתרו רמז רפט). ועוד אמרו רבותינו זכרונם לברכה (סנהדרין יז, ב), שלא ידור אדם במקום שאין רופא

והנה מצאה החקירה מקום לנוח, מאחר שהשם ממית ומחיה, מה יתן ומה יוסיף הרופא, הלוא אם נגזר עליו שימות, אם יעמדו כל רופאים שבעולם לא יוכלו להציל ממות נפשו, ועל זה אמרו, טעות הרופא, רצון הבורא. ואין מידו מציל, ואם נגזר עליו שיחיה בלי רופא, הקדוש ברוך הוא מגלגל גלגולים ומביא לו רפואתו, כי הרבה אפנים למקום והרבה עמו פדות והוא ישלח דברו וירפאם. אבל התשובה לזה ולהרבה חקירות כאלה הוא, ששלשה מיני גזרות יש, אם הוא גברא דאית לה זכות תולה, ואלימא זכותה ובריא מזלה, אפלו אם לא יהיה לו רופא ויעשה דברים נגדיים לחליו, לא ימות אלא חיה יחיה. ויש שנגזרה עליו מיתה רחמנא לצלן, אם ישמר את עצמו בכל שמירות שבעולם, שוא שקד שומר והרופאים לא יועילו ולא יצילו. אבלי יש שמחמת עונותיו מניחין אותו תחת הטבע, אם ישמר ויתנהג ברפואות על פי הטבע, חיה יחיה, ואם לאו, ימות, ועל כגון זה נאמר (משלי יג כג) ויש נספה בלא משפט:

פלא יועץ שמ״ט

Healing - Our sages of blessed memory said on the verse "And heal he will be healed" [shemot 21;19] - from here the Torah gave the permission to doctors to heal. [berakhot 60a] And it is also said [with respect to illnesses] - that they are bad and trustworthy [Deut / devarim 28;59] - that they are "trustworthy" as an emissary / delegate [of heaven] [rashi there] for at the time that they are appointed / delegated [to fall upon a person] - it is decreed upon them that they should only leave on a determined day by the appointed doctor using the prescribed medicine. Our sages have also said "A person should not live in a place where there is no doctor" [Sanhedrin 17b]

And thus we find that an [interesting] inquiry arises. Since it is Hashem who determines death and life - what what will the doctor add [by aiding to heal the patient]? Is it not so that if it was decreed [in Heaven] that one will die, even if all the doctors in the world arose to heal him, they would not be able to save him from death?And thus [we can better understand] our sages statement "the error / malpractice of the doctor is the will of the Creator" and it is not in his power to save. And if it was decreed upon the person that he should live, even without a doctor, the Holy One Blessed Be He, will turn over [worlds] and cure him. For Hashem has many ways and with Him there is much deliverance and He will stretch out his word [other version "hand"] and heal him. However, the answer to this inquiry and to many others like it is that there are three different types of decrees - 1) If he is one that holds a special merit and his merit is strong and his fate is salutary - even if he doesn't have a doctor and he does things that will worsen his condition, he will not die and "live he will live". 2) And there are those, upon whom death is decreed - that is to say, even if he guarded himself with all protection in the world, his persistence of protecting himself is all in vain, and doctors will be of no help and he will not be saved. 3) However, there are those who, due to their sins, place themselves under the influence of "nature": - if they protect themselves and act with the proper cures according to nature - "live he will live" - he will surely live. - and if not they will die and on this type of person it is said "and there is death without judgment."

Pele Yoetz, 349

So now that we see that the Talmud expects us to protect ourselves in the face of an epidemic, Let us examine three more issues:

1) What is the relationship between our spiritual condition and physical plagues?

2) Can we do anything on a spiritual level to protect ourselves in addition to whatever we do on the physical plane?

3) Can we do anything on the spiritual plane that would help neutralize, revert, and even neutralize the physical plague?

Does it even make sense to ask such questions? Don't we know that the pandemic was caused by someone eating something in Wuhan and due to its very contagious nature spread the way it did? The solution would be a vaccine, and until one is found, quarantine! Why look for philosophical, metaphysical answers for phenomena that are strictly in the realm of biology and medicine?

We see from the following passage in the Talmud, however, that the question "Why?" —in addition to "How?"— is a very legitimate one.

שאלו תלמידיו את רשב"י מפני מה נתחייבו שונאיהן של ישראל שבאותו הדור כליה אמר להם אמרו אתם אמרו לו מפני שנהנו מסעודתו של אותו רשע אם כן שבשושן יהרגו שבכל העולם כולו אל יהרגו אמרו לו אמור אתה אמר להם מפני שהשתחוו לצלם

מגילה יב, א

The students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai asked him: For what reason were the enemies of Jewish people, a euphemism for the Jewish people themselves when exhibiting behavior that is not in their best interests, in that generation deserving of annihilation? He, Rabbi Shimon, said to them: Say the answer to your question yourselves. They said to him: It is because they partook of the feast of that wicked one, Ahasuerus. Rabbi Shimon responded: If so, those in Shushan should have been killed as punishment, but those in the rest of the world, who did not participate in the feast, should not have been killed. They said to him: Then you say your response to our question. He said to them: It is because they prostrated before the idol that Nebuchadnezzar had made, as is recorded that the entire world bowed down before it, except for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Megillah 12a

Rashbi's students knew perfectly well how the decree came to be. The details are right there in the literal reading of the Megillah. Their question was "why?".

What did the Jews do to deserve it? Alternatively, what did they not do that would have helped prevent or neutralize it?

Rashbi's students understood that nothing happens here on earth without it having been so decreed beforehand in heaven.

(What is very strange, however, is the answer that Rashbi's students gave. How can it be that the Jews at the time of the Purim events deserved to be exterminated simply because they participated in Achashverosh's feast? Eating non kosher food does not warrant the death penalty! Besides, top quality Kosher food was served there as well. So what does accepting an invite to Achashverosh's banquet have to do with a decree for annihilation?

The Rebbe explains that the issue here was not that they partook of the king's (kosher) feast out of a sense of duty, but that they enjoyed it. They felt privileged to have the sort of relationship they enjoyed with the king of the superpower of that time and felt secure enough not to need the miraculous, supernatural support of G-d. As a matter of fact, the banquet celebrated the non-fulfillment of the prophecies that foresaw the Jews' returning to Israel after their seventy year exile in Babylonia!

So what G-d did was to accept to play by their rules. "You guys want to play according to the rules of nature? You're tired of depending on me for supernatural, miraculous interventions? So be it! Go take care of yourselves by yourselves!"

So, in reality, Haman's decree was not a punishment for their behavior; it was merely a natural consequence of their choice.)

We see from the Rambam as well, that there is no such thing as something happening on the physical plane without a parallel occurrence and cause on the spiritual plane. In order to rectify the imbalance in the physical dimension, one must first address the issues that caused them on the spiritual plane.

א. מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה מִן הַתּוֹרָה לִזְעֹק וּלְהָרִיעַ בַּחֲצוֹצְרוֹת עַל כָּל צָרָה שֶׁתָּבוֹא עַל הַצִּבּוּר. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר י ט) "עַל הַצַּר הַצֹּרֵר אֶתְכֶם וַהֲרֵעֹתֶם בַּחֲצֹצְרוֹת". כְּלוֹמַר כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁיָּצֵר לָכֶם כְּגוֹן בַּצֹּרֶת וְדֶבֶר וְאַרְבֶּה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן זַעֲקוּ עֲלֵיהֶן וְהָרִיעוּ:

ב. דָבָר זֶה מִדַּרְכֵי הַתְּשׁוּבָה הוּא. שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁתָּבוֹא צָרָה וְיִזְעֲקוּ עָלֶיהָ וְיָרִיעוּ יֵדְעוּ הַכּל שֶׁבִּגְלַל מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם הָרָעִים הוּרַע לָהֶן כַּכָּתוּב (ירמיה ה, כה) "עֲוֹנוֹתֵיכֶם הִטּוּ" וְגוֹ'. וְזֶה הוּא שֶׁיִּגְרֹם לָהֶם לְהָסִיר הַצָּרָה מֵעֲלֵיהֶם.

ג. אֲבָל אִם לֹא יִזְעֲקוּ וְלֹא יָרִיעוּ אֶלָּא יֹאמְרוּ דָּבָר זֶה מִמִּנְהַג הָעוֹלָם אֵרַע לָנוּ וְצָרָה זוֹ נִקְרָה נִקְרֵית. הֲרֵי זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ אַכְזָרִיּוּת וְגוֹרֶמֶת לָהֶם לְהִדַּבֵּק בְּמַעֲשֵׂיהֶם הָרָעִים. וְתוֹסִיף הַצָּרָה צָרוֹת אֲחֵרוֹת. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (ויקרא כו כז) "וַהֲלַכְתֶּם עִמִּי בְּקֶרִי" (ויקרא כו כח) "וְהָלַכְתִּי גַּם אֲנִי עִמָּכֶם בַּחֲמַת קֶרִי". כְּלוֹמַר כְּשֶׁאָבִיא עֲלֵיכֶם צָרָה כְּדֵי שֶׁתָּשׁוּבוּ אִם תֹּאמְרוּ שֶׁהִיא קֶרִי אוֹסִיף לָכֶם חֲמַת אוֹתוֹ קֶרִי.

הלכות תעניות א, א-ג

  1. It is a positive commandment from the Torah to cry out and to sound trumpets for all troubles that come upon the community; as it is stated (Numbers 10:9), "upon an enemy who attacks you and you sound trumpets." That is to say, [with] every matter that troubles you — such as famine, a plague, locusts and that which is similar to them — cry out about them, and sound the trumpets.

  2. And this thing is from the ways of repentance. For when a trouble comes and they yell out about it and sound [trumpets], everyone will know that it was because of their evil deeds that this bad was done to them. As it is stated (Jeremiah 5:25), "It is your iniquities that have diverted, etc." And this is what will cause them to remove the trouble from upon them.

  3. But if they do not cry out and sound [trumpets], but rather say, "What has happened to us is the way of the world, and this trouble is merely happenstance" — it is surely the way of cruelty, and it causes them to stick to their bad deeds. And the trouble will add other troubles. About this is it written in the Torah (Leviticus 26: 27-28), "but walk arbitrarily with Me. Then I will (also) walk arbitrarily with you in fury." That is to say, "When I will bring upon you troubles — if you will say that it is arbitrary, I will increase the fury of this arbitrariness."

Mishneh Torah, Fasts 1:1-3

As an aside, it is interesting that the Rambam includes epidemics in his list of calamities that require crying out to G-d and doing Teshuvah. In other words, epidemics are not merely biological issues, but physical expressions of spiritual, cosmic realities. This is coming from a very precise medical authority —in his times as well as in ours—, as we see from the very specific data he uses regarding the demographics, number and timespan of fatalities that would define an epidemic:

(א) אֵלוּ הֵן הַצָּרוֹת שֶׁל צִבּוּר שֶׁמִּתְעַנִּין וּמַתְרִיעִין עֲלֵיהֶם. עַל הֲצָרַת שׂוֹנְאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. וְעַל הַחֶרֶב. וְעַל הַדֶּבֶר. וְעַל חַיָּה רָעָה. וְעַל הָאַרְבֶּה. וְעַל הֶחָסִיל. וְעַל הַשִּׁדָּפוֹן. וְעַל הַיֵּרָקוֹן. וְעַל הַמַּפּלֶת. וְעַל הֶחֳלָאִים. וְעַל הַמְּזוֹנוֹת. וְעַל הַמָּטָר:

ה) וְעַל הַדֶּבֶר. אֵי זוֹ הִיא דֶּבֶר עִיר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת רַגְלִי וְיָצְאוּ מִמֶּנָּה שְׁלֹשָׁה מֵתִים בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים זֶה אַחַר זֶה הֲרֵי זֶה דֶּבֶר. יָצְאוּ בְּיוֹם אֶחָד אוֹ בְּאַרְבָּעָה יָמִים אֵין זֶה דֶּבֶר. הָיוּ בָּהּ אֶלֶף וְיָצְאוּ מִמֶּנָּה שִׁשָּׁה מֵתִים בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים זֶה אַחַר זֶה דֶּבֶר. יָצְאוּ בְּיוֹם אֶחָד אוֹ בְּאַרְבָּעָה אֵין זֶה דֶּבֶר. וְכֵן לְפִי חֶשְׁבּוֹן זֶה. וְאֵין הַנָּשִׁים וְהַקְּטַנִּים וְהַזְּקֵנִים שֶׁשָּׁבְתוּ מִמְּלָאכָה בִּכְלַל מִנְיַן אַנְשֵׁי הַמְּדִינָה לְעִנְיָן זֶה:

הלכות תעניות ב, א,ה

1) These are the troubles of the community about which we fast and sound [trumpets]: About haters of Israelites making troubles for Israelites; about the sword (foreign troops); about a plague; about evil (dangerous) animals; about [the two main types of] locusts; about blight; about chlorosis; about collapse; about sicknesses; about [the lack of] provisions; and about the rain.

5) About a plague — how is this? What is a plague? A city that has five hundred footmen and three of them are eliminated and died in three days — one after [the other] — this is surely a plague. If they were eliminated in one day or in four days, it is not a plague. If there were a thousand and six of them were eliminated in three days — one after [the other — this is] a plague. If they were eliminated in one day or in four days, it is not a plague. And so forth, according to this calculation. And women, minors and old men that have stopped from working are not in the count of the people of the province regarding this matter.

Mishneh Torah, Fasts 2:1,5

So, the question is: what difference can an individual make in the general scheme of things? Do we really matter? How can my personal Teshuvah make a dent in a pandemic that is affecting 7.7 billion people? The following ruling by Rambam gives us some perspective.

ב. אָדָם שֶׁעֲוֹנוֹתָיו מְרֻבִּין עַל זְכֻיּוֹתָיו מִיָּד הוּא מֵת בְּרִשְׁעוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר עַל רֹב עֲוֹנֵךְ. וְכֵן מְדִינָה שֶׁעֲוֹנוֹתֶיהָ מְרֻבִּין מִיָּד הִיא אוֹבֶדֶת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח כ) "זַעֲקַת סְדֹם וַעֲמֹרָה כִּי רָבָּה" וְגוֹ'. וְכֵן כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ אִם הָיוּ עֲוֹנוֹתֵיהֶם מְרֻבִּין מִזְּכֻיּוֹתֵיהֶן מִיָּד הֵן נִשְׁחָתִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית ו ה) "וַיַּרְא ה' כִּי רַבָּה רָעַת הָאָדָם". וְשִׁקּוּל זֶה אֵינוֹ לְפִי מִנְיַן הַזְּכֻיּוֹת וְהָעֲוֹנוֹת אֶלָּא לְפִי גָּדְלָם. יֵשׁ זְכוּת שֶׁהִיא כְּנֶגֶד כַּמָּה עֲוֹנוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלכים א יד יג) "יַעַן נִמְצָא בוֹ דָּבָר טוֹב". וְיֵשׁ עָוֹן שֶׁהוּא כְּנֶגֶד כַּמָּה זְכֻיּוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (קהלת ט יח) "וְחוֹטֶא אֶחָד יְאַבֵּד טוֹבָה הַרְבֵּה". וְאֵין שׁוֹקְלִין אֶלָּא בְּדַעְתּוֹ שֶׁל אֵל דֵּעוֹת וְהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ הֵיאַךְ עוֹרְכִין הַזְּכֻיּוֹת כְּנֶגֶד הָעֲוֹנוֹת.

ד. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁתְּקִיעַת שׁוֹפָר בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה גְּזֵרַת הַכָּתוּב רֶמֶז יֵשׁ בּוֹ כְּלוֹמַר עוּרוּ יְשֵׁנִים מִשְּׁנַתְכֶם וְנִרְדָּמִים הָקִיצוּ מִתַּרְדֵּמַתְכֶם וְחַפְּשׂוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂיכֶם וְחִזְרוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה וְזִכְרוּ בּוֹרַאֲכֶם. אֵלּוּ הַשּׁוֹכְחִים אֶת הָאֱמֶת בְּהַבְלֵי הַזְּמַן וְשׁוֹגִים כָּל שְׁנָתָם בְּהֶבֶל וָרִיק אֲשֶׁר לֹא יוֹעִיל וְלֹא יַצִּיל, הַבִּיטוּ לְנַפְשׁוֹתֵיכֶם וְהֵיטִיבוּ דַּרְכֵיכֶם וּמַעַלְלֵיכֶם וְיַעֲזֹב כָּל אֶחָד מִכֶּם דַּרְכּוֹ הָרָעָה וּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר לֹא טוֹבָה. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ כָּל אָדָם שֶׁיִּרְאֶה עַצְמוֹ כָּל הַשָּׁנָה כֻּלָּהּ כְּאִלּוּ חֶצְיוֹ זַכַּאי וְחֶצְיוֹ חַיָּב. וְכֵן כָּל הָעוֹלָם חֶצְיוֹ זַכַּאי וְחֶצְיוֹ חַיָּב. חָטָא חֵטְא אֶחָד הֲרֵי הִכְרִיעַ אֶת עַצְמוֹ וְאֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ לְכַף חוֹבָה וְגָרַם לוֹ הַשְׁחָתָה. עָשָׂה מִצְוָה אַחַת הֲרֵי הִכְרִיעַ אֶת עַצְמוֹ וְאֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם כֻּלּוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת וְגָרַם לוֹ וְלָהֶם תְּשׁוּעָה וְהַצָּלָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי י כה) "וְצַדִּיק יְסוֹד עוֹלָם" זֶה שֶׁצָּדַק הִכְרִיעַ אֶת כָּל הָעוֹלָם לִזְכוּת וְהִצִּילוֹ. וּמִפְּנֵי עִנְיָן זֶה נָהֲגוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַרְבּוֹת בִּצְדָקָה וּבְמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים וְלַעֲסֹק בְּמִצְוֹת מֵרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים יֶתֶר מִכָּל הַשָּׁנָה. וְנָהֲגוּ כֻּלָּם לָקוּם בַּלַּיְלָה בַּעֲשָׂרָה יָמִים אֵלּוּ וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּל בְּבָתֵּי כְּנֵסִיּוֹת בְּדִבְרֵי תַּחֲנוּנִים וּבְכִבּוּשִׁין עַד שֶׁיֵּאוֹר הַיּוֹם:

הלכות תשובה ג, ב-ד


2) A man whose vices exceed his virtues dies immediately as a result of his wickedness, as it is said: "For the multitude of thine iniquity" (Hos. 9. 7). So is a state whose vices exceed immediately destroyed, even as it is said: "Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorroh is great (Gen. 18. 20). So, too, is the whole world, if their vices exceed their virtues they are immediately destroyed, as it is said: "And G-d saw that the wickedness of man was great" (6. 5). But the weighing of this is not according to the number of virtues and vices, but according to their magnitude. There is a virtue that outweighs many vices, even as it is said: "Because in him there is found some good thing" (I Kings, 14. 13); and there is a kind of vice which outweighs many virtues, even as it is said: "But one sinner destroyeth much good" (Ecc. 9. 18). Moreover these are not weighed by anyone, save only in the knowledge of the All-knowing G-d, for only He knoweth how to calculate the value of virtues versus vices.

4) Notwithstanding that the blowing of the ram's horn trumpet on Rosh haShanah is a Scriptural statute, its blast is symbolic, as if saying: "Ye that sleep, bestir yourselves from your sleep, and ye slumbering, emerge from your slumber, examine your conduct, turn in repentance, and remember your Creator! They that forget the truth because of the vanities of the times, who err all of their years by pursuing vanity and idleness, which are of neither benefit nor of salvation, care for your souls, improve your ways and your tendencies, let each one of you abandon his evil path and his thought which is not pure! It is, therefore, necessary for every man to behold himself throughout the whole year in a light of being evenly balanced between innocence and guilt, and look upon the entire world as if evenly balanced between innocence and guilt; thus, if he commit one sin, he will overbalance himself and the whole world to the side of guilt, and be a cause of its destruction; but if he perform one duty, behold, he will overbalance himself and the whole world to the side of virtue, and bring about his own and their salvation and escape, even as it is said: "But the righteous is an everlasting foundation" (Prov. 10. 25), it is he, by whose righteousness he overbalanced the whole world to virtue and saved it. And, because of this matter, it became the custom of the whole house of Israel to excel in alms-giving, in good conduct and in the performance of duties during the intervening days of Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom ha-Kippurim above what they do during the whole year. It also became a universal custom to rise early during those ten days, to deliver in the synagogues prayers of supplication and ardor till the dawn of the day.

Mishneh Torah, Repentance 3:4

So, yes, one individual in 7.7 billion is pretty much insignificant, unless the 7.7 billion are divided in two and equally balanced... in that case one individual can make all of the difference. That individual might be YOU and the decision you are about to make right now!

If you find it difficult to take the Rambam's words at face value, just look around you! All 7.7 billion humans are paralyzed because of the actions of ONE individual in Wuhan! One sneeze by an infected individual in an environment where social distancing is not respected can cause an incalculably detrimental chain reaction with far-reaching results.

* * *

We find another case where the Talmud correlates a spiritual reality with a physical tragedy:

ר"ע אומר למד תורה בילדותו ילמוד תורה בזקנותו היו לו תלמידים בילדותו יהיו לו תלמידים בזקנותו שנא' בבקר זרע את זרעך וגו' אמרו שנים עשר אלף זוגים תלמידים היו לו לרבי עקיבא מגבת עד אנטיפרס וכולן מתו בפרק אחד מפני שלא נהגו כבוד זה לזה… תנא כולם מתו מפסח ועד עצרת אמר רב חמא בר אבא ואיתימא ר' חייא בר אבין כולם מתו מיתה רעה מאי היא א"ר נחמן אסכרה.

יבמות סב, ב

Rabbi Akiva says that the verse should be understood as follows: If one studied Torah in his youth he should study more Torah in his old age; if he had students in his youth he should have additional students in his old age, as it is stated: “In the morning sow your seed, etc.” They said by way of example that Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of students in an area of land that stretched from Gevat to Antipatris in Judea, and they all died in one period of time, because they did not treat each other with respect… It is taught that all of them died in the period from Passover until Shavuot. Rav Ḥama bar Abba said, and some say it was Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Avin: They all died a bad death. The Gemara inquires: What is it that is called a bad death? Rav Naḥman said: Diphtheria.

Yevamot 62b

So the question is: how do you explain the fact that 24,000 students died as a result of not respecting one another? Does lack of respect for a colleague deserve capital punishment?

The Rebbe explains that they were not punished for their lack of respect, but merely were vulnerable to an existing moment of "judgement" —expressed through a plague (Diphtheria)— because of their lack of unity. Had they been united amongst themselves, that would have fortified their defenses to the extent of protecting them and making them invulnerable to the plague of Diphtheria that raged at that time.

On a different occasion the Rebbe gave the example of a soldier that goes to war and protects himself with a helmet. If he were to remove his helmet and be struck by a bullet, that would not imply punishment. His injury would be the result of his not having his protection in place when the bullet came his way.

So, too, regarding our spiritual protection against external dangers. The stronger we are spiritually, the more protected we are physically, as well.

So, we have seen until now how we can protect ourselves against danger by taking physical as well as spiritual measures.

We will now explore another approach: uncovering and activating the positive potential embedded within the negative situation.

If everything comes from G-d, and G-d is benevolent and omnipotent, how are we to understand tragedy?

We find that apparent tragedy can actually be a source of great opportunity and blessing.

ה֗וֹי כִּ֥י גָד֛וֹל הַיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא מֵאַ֣יִן כָּמֹ֑הוּ וְעֵֽת־צָרָ֥ה הִיא֙ לְיַֽעֲקֹ֔ב וּמִמֶּ֖נָּה יִוָּשֵֽׁעַ׃

ירמיהו ל, ז

Ah, that day is awesome; There is none like it! It is a time of trouble for Jacob, But he shall be delivered from it.

Jeremiah 30:7

The Metzudas David explains the verse to mean not merely that Jacob will be delivered from his time of trouble, but that he will be delivered through it! The affliction itself will serve as a source of blessing and opportunity:

ועת צרה. אז יהיה עת צרה לישראל אבל מן הצרה ההיא תצא לו עוד תשועה

מצודת דוד על ירמיהו ל, ז

Metzudat David on Jeremiah 30:7 (Translation)

The Baal Shemtov explains this concept very clearly in the following text.

נח ו, טז. ז, א:

צהר תעשה לתבה . . בא אתה וכל ביתך אל התבה.

. . . ושלשה אותיות בונות ששה בתים כמו אותיות הצ"ר, שיש לו ששה צירופים וידוע בקבלה רבי מפי רבי ממורנו הבעש"ט נ"ע דבצירוף זה הרי יש בו ג' עקרים וג' מסתעפים העקרים הם הצר, רצה, צהר.

ואמר מורנו הבעש"ט נ"ע דע"י האותיות דתורה ותפלה שהו"ע בא אל התיבה, דתיבה הם אותיות התורה והתפלה ובא אל התיבה הוא הכניסה בתוך האותיות של תורה ותפלה, לערנען מיט אַ חיות און דאַוונען מיט אַ חיות. דהחיות מורה על פנימיות הרצון שהו"ע רצה, הנה עי"ז נעשה צה"ר לתיבה, דבכח זה מהפכים את הצר"ה של הצ"ר הצורר ר"ל, לצה"ר וע"ד דכתיב ועת צרה היא ליעקב, וממנה יושע דלא זו בלבד שיפטר מן הצרה, אלא עוד כי וממנה יושע, דמן הצרה ההיא תצא לו עוד ישועה

כתר שם טוב (קה"ת).

(English translation)

In the next text we find a good example of this dynamic:

בֶּן־אָדָ֗ם כתוב־[כְּתָב־] לְךָ֙ אֶת־שֵׁ֣ם הַיּ֔וֹם אֶת־עֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה סָמַ֤ךְ מֶֽלֶךְ־בָּבֶל֙ אֶל־יְר֣וּשָׁלִַ֔ם בְּעֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

יחזקאל כד, ב

O mortal, record this date, this exact day; for this very day the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 24:2

The verb סמך —laid siege— also implies "support". What is the implication of these apparently contradictory concepts implicit in the verb used? How can the destructive siege of Jerusalem have any positive implications of fortification?

The Rebbe explains (Likutei Sichot Vol. 25 Page 268) that the answer lies in the fact that the cause for the destruction of the Temple was attributed to שנאת חינם, baseless hatred, as we see in the following talmudic text:

מקדש ראשון מפני מה חרב? מפני ג' דברים שהיו בו: ע"ז וגלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים...

אבל מקדש שני שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב? מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם. ללמדך ששקולה שנאת חנם כנגד שלש עבירות ע"ז גלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים.

יומא ט, ב.

Due to what reason was the First Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there were three matters that existed in the First Temple: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations, and bloodshed...

Why was the Second Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there was wanton hatred during that period. This comes to teach you that the sin of wanton hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed.

Yoma 9b

Although it would seem from this text that "baseless hatred" was the cause only of the destruction of the second Temple, the Rebbe points out that it was also indirectly the cause for the destruction of the first Temple, as evidenced from the following Midrash:

(ו) רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר וְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן... אוֹתָן שֶׁל דּוֹר הַמַּבּוּל לֹא נִשְׁתַּיְּרָה מֵהֶן פְּלֵיטָה, וְאֵלּוּ שֶׁל דּוֹר הַפְלָגָה נִשְׁתַּיְירָה מֵהֶם פְּלֵטָה, אֶלָּא דּוֹר הַמַּבּוּל עַל יְדֵי שֶׁהָיוּ שְׁטוּפִים בְּגָזֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב כד, ב): גְּבֻלוֹת יַשִֹּׂיגוּ עֵדֶר גָּזְלוּ וַיִּרְעוּ, לְפִיכָךְ לֹא נִשְׁתַּיֵּיר מֵהֶן פְּלֵיטָה, אֲבָל אֵלּוּ עַל יְדֵי שֶׁהָיוּ אוֹהֲבִים זֶה אֶת זֶה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַיְהִי כָל הָאָרֶץ שָׂפָה אֶחָת, לְפִיכָךְ נִשְׁתַּיְּרָה מֵהֶן פְּלֵיטָה. רַבִּי אוֹמֵר גָּדוֹל הַשָּׁלוֹם שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל עוֹבְדִים עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וְשָׁלוֹם בֵּינֵיהֶם, אָמַר הַמָּקוֹם כִּבְיָכוֹל אֵינִי יָכוֹל לִשְׁלֹט בָּהֶם, כֵּיוָן שֶׁשָּׁלוֹם בֵּינֵיהֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (הושע ד, יז): חֲבוּר עֲצַבִּים אֶפְרָיִם הַנַּח לוֹ, אֲבָל מִשֶּׁנֶּחְלְקוּ מַה הוּא אוֹמֵר (הושע י, ב): חָלַק לִבָּם עַתָּה יֶאְשָׁמוּ. הָא לָמַדְתָּ גָּדוֹל הַשָּׁלוֹם וּשְׂנוּאָה הַמַּחְלֹקֶת.

בראשית רבה ל״ח

Bereishit Rabbah 38 Translation?

The redeeming factor of the generation that built the Tower of Babel in defiance of G-d that determined that they not be destroyed as was the generation of the Flood, was the unity and harmony that reigned amongst them. We see from here that "unity" has the power to protect even against punishment for the sin of idolatry. It is reasonable to conclude that had there been total unity amongst the Jews of Jerusalem at the time of the siege , the siege would have been powerless against them.

Being that "baseless hatred" contributed —albeit indirectly— to the destruction of the first Temple, had the Jews responded to the siege by rectifying that problem, it would have protected them against destruction. The siege which by its very nature imposed unity amongst the inhabitants of Jerusalem had the potential of serving as the "cue" and thus motivating them to internalize the unity and "make it theirs". So, from this perspective, the siege that was laid by Nebuchadnezzar in order to destroy Jerusalem actually had the potential to fortify its inhabitants. Were they to have taken advantage of the opportunity and rectify their sinful behavior, they would have averted the siege.

In conclusion, how are we to understand the present situation?

Let us examine one of the oft-quoted prophecies regarding the onset of the messianic era:

וְהָיָ֣ה ׀ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא יִתָּקַע֮ בְּשׁוֹפָ֣ר גָּדוֹל֒ וּבָ֗אוּ הָאֹֽבְדִים֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ אַשּׁ֔וּר וְהַנִּדָּחִ֖ים בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם וְהִשְׁתַּחֲו֧וּ לַיהוָ֛ה בְּהַ֥ר הַקֹּ֖דֶשׁ בִּירוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

ישעיהו כז, יג

And on that day, a great ram’s horn shall be sounded; and the strayed who are in the land of Assyria and the expelled who are in the land of Egypt shall come and worship the L-rd on the holy mount, in Jerusalem.

Isaiah 27:13

Prior to the coming of Mashiach, a "great (big) Shofar" will be sounded that will herald the ingathering of the exiles. What is the nature of this "great" Shofar?

We find several explanations. Among them:

Literal: the ram that Abraham sacrificed instead of his son, Isaac, had two horns that were fashioned into Shofarot. The smaller one was sounded at Mt. Sinai when we received then Torah. The second one will be sounded to herald the ingathering of the exiles.

(יג) ר' חנניא בן דוסא אומר, אותו האיל שנברא בין השמשות לא יצא ממנו דבר לבטלה. אפרו של איל הוא יסוד על גבי המזבח הפנימי, גידי האיל אלו עשרה נבלים של כנור שהיה דוד מנגן בהם, עורו של איל הוא אזור מתניו של אליהו ז"ל, שנ' איש בעל שער וכו', קרניו של איל, של שמאל שתקע בו בהר סיני שנ' ויהי במשוך בקרן היובל, ושל ימין שהיא גדולה משל שמאל שהוא עתיד לתקוע בה לעתיד לבא, שנ' והיה ביום ההוא יתקע בשופר גדול והיה ה' למלך על כל הארץ.

פרקי דרבי אליעזר לא:יג

Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa said: From that ram, which was created at the twilight, nothing came forth which was useless. The ashes of the ram were || the base which was upon the top of the inner altar. The sinews of the ram were the strings of the harp whereon David played. The ram's skin was the girdle (around) the loins of Elijah, may he be remembered for good, as it is said, "And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins" (2 Kings 1:8). The horn of the ram of the left side (was the one) wherein He blew upon Mount Sinai, as it is said, "And it shall come to pass, that when the ram's horn soundeth long" (Josh. 6:5). (The horn) of the right side, which is larger than that of the left, is destined in the future to be sounded in the world that is to come, as it is said, "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great trumpet shall be blown" (Isa. 27:13); and it is said, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zech. 14:9).

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 31:13

(ד) ד"א בזמן שישראל נאחזין בסבך המלכיות, עתיד לפדותן בקרניו של איל, שנאמר והיה ביום ההוא יתקע בשופר גדול (ישעיה כז יג). שתי קרנות היו לו לאיל באחד מהם תקע ביום שנתן תורה לישראל, שנאמר ויהי קול השופר (שמות יט יט), וקרן הימין עתיד הקב"ה לתקוע בו לקיבוץ הגליות, לכך קראו גדול, לפי שהוא של ימין:

מדרש אגדה, בראשית כב,יג

Midrash Aggadah, Genesis 22:13 Translation

Metaphoric: We sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, referred to in the prayers as Hayom Haras Olam. In addition to describing a world "trembling" before G-d on the day of judgement, “haras olam ” also implies the "birth" of the world, as Creation is reenacted and new Divine, vital energies are generated for the new year.

The shape of the Shofar, narrow at the mouthpiece and wide at the other end, expresses the idea of "I call out to G-d in my constriction; G-d answers me with expansiveness." (Psalms 118:5)

Might we say, then, that what is happening today to all of humanity, extreme meitzar —restrictions and constrictions— are merely the contractions announcing the imminent "birth" of mankind and subsequent merchav —expansiveness— of Redemption?

Our sages note that "Birth" does not merely imply the appearance of something that didn't exist beforehand, but rather a transformation from one reality to another, as the following talmudic text describes:

דרש רבי שמלאי למה הולד דומה במעי אמו לפנקס שמקופל ומונח ידיו על שתי צדעיו שתי אציליו על ב' ארכובותיו וב' עקביו על ב' עגבותיו וראשו מונח לו בין ברכיו ופיו סתום וטבורו פתוח ואוכל ממה שאמו אוכלת ושותה ממה שאמו שותה ואינו מוציא רעי שמא יהרוג את אמו וכיון שיצא לאויר העולם נפתח הסתום ונסתם הפתוח שאלמלא כן אינו יכול לחיות אפילו שעה אחת.

נדה ל, ב

Rabbi Samlai taught: To what is a fetus in its mother’s womb comparable? To a folded notebook [lefinkas]. And it rests with its hands on its two sides of its head, at the temples, its two arms [atzilav] on its two knees, and its two heels on its two buttocks, and its head rests between its knees, and its mouth is closed, and its umbilicus is open. And it eats from what its mother eats, and it drinks from what its mother drinks, and it does not emit excrement lest it kill its mother. But once it emerges into the airspace of the world, the closed limb, i.e., its mouth, opens, and the open limb, its umbilicus, closes, as otherwise it cannot live for even one hour.

Niddah 30b

So, might we understand the “great Shofar” heralding the coming of Moshiach as representing the onset of the transformational "birth" of mankind that he will bring about? What we were closed —insensitive— to before we are now open(ing) to and what we were so open to before we now are closing up to. Are we perhaps at the threshold of a new society based on transformed value systems?

Another thought: If we were to compare meitzar to a question and merchav to an answer, it would seem pretty evident that never have such deep questions been more present and prevalent, and hence never has humanity been more eager and receptive to the "answers" that Moshiach will provide.

Maimonides, at the conclusion of his magnum opus the Mishneh Torah, describes the messianic era as being one of great thirst for Divine wisdom.

ד) לֹא נִתְאַוּוּ הַחֲכָמִים וְהַנְּבִיאִים יְמוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ. לֹא כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּשְׁלְטוּ עַל כָּל הָעוֹלָם. וְלֹא כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּרְדּוּ בָּעַכּוּ''ם. וְלֹא כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּנַשְּׂאוּ אוֹתָם הָעַמִּים. וְלֹא כְּדֵי לֶאֱכל וְלִשְׁתּוֹת וְלִשְׂמֹחַ. אֶלָּא כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ פְּנוּיִין בַּתּוֹרָה וְחָכְמָתָהּ. וְלֹא יִהְיֶה לָהֶם נוֹגֵשׂ וּמְבַטֵּל. כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּזְכּוּ לְחַיֵּי הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה.

ה) וּבְאוֹתוֹ הַזְּמַן לֹא יִהְיֶה שָׁם לֹא רָעָב וְלֹא מִלְחָמָה. וְלֹא קִנְאָה וְתַחֲרוּת. שֶׁהַטּוֹבָה תִּהְיֶה מֻשְׁפַּעַת הַרְבֵּה. וְכָל הַמַּעֲדַנִּים מְצוּיִין כֶּעָפָר. וְלֹא יִהְיֶה עֵסֶק כָּל הָעוֹלָם אֶלָּא לָדַעַת אֶת ה' בִּלְבַד. וּלְפִיכָךְ יִהְיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲכָמִים גְּדוֹלִים וְיוֹדְעִים דְּבָרִים הַסְּתוּמִים וְיַשִּׂיגוּ דַּעַת בּוֹרְאָם כְּפִי כֹּחַ הָאָדָם. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה יא, ט) "כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ דֵּעָה אֶת ה' כַּמַּיִם לַיָּם מְכַסִּים:

הלכות מלכים ומלחמותיהם יב, ד-ה

(4) The Sages and the Prophets did not long for the days of the Messiah because they wanted to rule the world or because they wanted to have dominion over the non-Jews or because they wanted the nations to exalt them or because they wanted to eat, drink and be merry. Rather, they desired this so that they would have time for Torah and its Wisdom. And there would be no one who would oppress them or force them to be idle (from Torah). This, in order that they may merit the World to Come, as we have explained regarding the Laws of Repentance.

(5) At that time there will be no famines and no wars, no envy and no competition. For the Good will be ubiquitous. All the delicacies will be as readily available as is dust. The world will only be engaged in knowing G-d. Israel will therefore be very wise who will understand the deep, sealed matters. They will then achieve knowledge of the Creator to as high a degree as humanly possible, as it says, “For the Earth shall be filled with knowledge of the L-rd, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

Mishneh Torah, Kings and Wars 12:4-5

Has there ever been a greater thirst for true knowledge than there is today?

Finally I would like to quote a text from the Zohar that thousands of years ago described a reality eerily similar to what we have been experiencing in ever increasing measure in the course of the past century.

וּבְשִׁית מְאָה שְׁנִין לִשְׁתִיתָאָה יִתְפַּתְּחוּן תַּרְעֵי דְחָכְמְתָא לְעֵילָא וּמַבּוּעֵי דְחָכְמְתָא לְתַתָּא, וְיִתְתַּקַּן עַלְמָא לְאָעֳלָא בִּשְׁבִיעָאָה. כְּבַר נָשׁ דְּמִתְתַּקַּן בְּיוֹמָא שְׁתִיתָאָה מֵכִי עָרַב שִׁמְשָׁא לְאֲעָלָא בְּשַׁבַּתָּא. אוּף הָכִי נָמֵי. וְסִימָנִיךְ (בראשית ז, יא) בִּשְׁנַת שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה לְחַיֵּי נֹחַ וְגו' נִבְקְעוּ כָּל מַעְיְינוֹת תְּהוֹם רַבָּה.

זוהר א׳ קיז, א

In the six hundredth year of the sixth [millennium, i.e., around the year 1840], the gates of supernal wisdom and the wellsprings of earthly wisdom will open up. This will prepare the world to be elevated in the seventh [millennium, i.e., the messianic era]

Zohar 1:117a

The Zohar describes the prelude to Mashiach as a time when there will be a deluge of both “heavenly” as well as “earthly” wisdom.

Has there ever been a greater flood of information than that which anyone can presently access anywhere and anytime?

It looks like we can take out the cigars…


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