Still mired in the pandemic, an ancient message resonates across the centuries. In a critical time in Israelite history, The Almighty admonished our ancestors: “Behold, I place before you a blessing and a curse.” It was a reminder and a warning that within every human decision can be benevolence or malevolence. Building up or tearing down. The explosive potential of deed.
In the old days, consequences were serious but limited. The impact, benign or malign, was regional. Vast swathes of humanity were unaffected. Today, however, technology and science has gutted and amplified the parochialism of the past. A silent, unseen killer fugitive can travel the globe in but days on a Boeing 777 or a Holland America cruise liner. The invisible stowaway can unleash ruination and panic bringing great nations to their knees. We have born witness to this curse with COVID-19 and yet, the very same technology and science that scattered the virus worldwide provides us with remarkable tools to combat this wretched plague. The pharmaceutical industry is working tirelessly on treatments and cures. Vaccines, with unprecedented speed, are in development.
Our quarantine is mitigated with an incredible array of electronic systems. Zoom has become a savior for billions and the verb-noun has entered our lexicon. Trains, planes and vans keep us stocked and plump and satisfied. Netflix entertains us as we binge into the wee hours. The scourge is awful. Debilitating. Nasty. But from the depths of human ingenuity come tools that enable us to combat and ultimately defeat this devilish assault. From the same place comes the disease and the cure. The curse and the blessing. Imbedded in every moment there is divergence.
Annihilation or creation. Despair or hope. Tragedy or resolution. Fire can incinerate or provide warmth. The internet can destroy lives or connect them. A split atom can vaporize a city or generate limitless energy. With each dawn there is sacred opportunity. Within every human invention there is an uncharted path towards either heaven or hell. Every deed and every thing can be reduced to a blessing or a curse. As we stand poised to enter a new year, let us joyously welcome the healing of bracha and bid an enthusiastic farewell to the agony of kelalah.
Rabbi Shalom Lewis is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Etz Chaim.