The Choices We Make

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

Life is filled with many dilemmas. The two facing us at this moment in time are: 1. The pandemic; and 2. The new variant. Additionally, we have witnessed a tragedy that boggles the mind.

We are fully aware that our lives have been turned upside down by an once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. We have witnessed the loss of lives and the upheaval of families as their loved ones disappear in the devastation of this nightmare. The numbers of those who succumbed to this disease are displayed by the minute and the numbers climb and we sit back wondering when it will end.

Then a miracle occurs. A vaccination, several vaccinations have been discovered that will alleviate the pain and bring some semblance of balance back to our lives. Things may never be the same, but we are certainly able to see a light that brings hope and salvation.

However, we are now faced with the prospect of seeing those capable of receiving this miracle drug refuse it for various reasons. Among the excuses offered relate to fear and misinformation. There have been minimal side-effects that have caused some to require additional assistance. The numbers, although small, are enough to cause angst resulting in a delay in the herd-immunity needed to eradicate this scourge.

We have heard all the excuses and we have learned a great deal about scare tactics designed to make the fear even more dreadful. Perhaps we have learned nothing from the past. When we needed a cure for Polio or Smallpox, or many of the diseases that existed in past generations, we extended ourselves and followed the guidelines offered so that these various causes of death and destruction were eliminated to enhance our ability to continue with life.

There is so much more that can be said, but perhaps we have heard it all and still there are those who resist the opportunity to end this blight on our future. Time surely will determine whether we have the will to understand that our obligation is to survive so that tomorrow will bring new adventures in our desire to find fulfillment.

Then there was the devastation of life and property that has occurred in Florida. We have yet to understand how a building that has stood for forty years suddenly disintegrates before our very eyes. We are at a loss to understand one minute of peace and calm and then another that includes losses unimagined, leaving us to wonder about tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that.

As one who has been trained to teach compassion and understanding, to offer consolation and hope, I am sometimes at a loss to understand the tragedies that seem to have no rhyme or reason. All clergy are trained to interpret so that Scripture has significance in our lives. We quote passages of sacred texts to help people make sense of their lives. We attempt to teach, to guide, to counsel, to encourage, to assist in reaching God in whatever way possible.

And yet, in the final analysis there are times, such as we are witnessing today, as well as for the last year and a half, that sometimes there are no words, no suggestions, no gleanings through Scripture, that will suffice to make sense of things that make no sense.

The questions are endless. The answers, too few. Faith seems to be shattered. Hope seems to fade.

Perhaps the answers may be extraordinarily easy. We are concerned about survival, and survival depends on our willingness to confront the issues facing us. Determination and perseverance are needed to ensure that our lives will have meaning. History is replete with episodes of annihilation because of hate, bigotry, and disease. History has also taught us that when faced with difficulties we do not hide, but rather face them head on.

Here we are at similar crossroads. We know that there are remedies to our difficulties. We know that we are responsible to ourselves and others to do what is necessary to survive. We know that there is a cure for our ailments and a reasonable approach to safeguard our lives so that we can face the future cheerfully.

The Bible teaches us in many ways the purpose and need for redemption. Through it all there is one defining offering—Redemption means deliverance. What we need and what we should strive for is the deliverance from the destructive influences that surround us. Those who refuse to accept the help offered to eradicate COVID-19 are rejecting redemption. Those who refuse to accept things that happen and look for new meaning in their lives, even through terrible experiences, are rejecting redemption.

We need to mourn, we need to express sorrow, but we also need to offer comfort and solace so that life can continue, understanding the experiences and using those experiences to move forward and live and encourage others to do the same.