Happy New Year (we hope)
It’s the five thousand, seven hundred and eighty second birthday of that fourteen-billion-year-old ball of rock and water we call home (see Happy Quantum New Year for the math). The day is relevant to all humans, not just the Jews. After a year like 5781, everyone should take it seriously.
It’s not just that the COVID pandemic is so intractable. There’s also the inability of many to have a calm discussion about it. “Follow the science,” but science isn’t on a single path. At times, we have to rely on common sense, a resource that’s been sorely lacking this past year.
Now let’s take Afghanistan. Oh, wait, it’s already been taken by the Taliban. They’re now in possession of billions of dollars worth of abandoned high-tech weapons developed by western nations such as Britain, the US and Israel. The Taliban aren’t our friends, and we can be sure that this technology will soon be in the hands of our enemies, such as Iran and China.
It’s an accepted principle in Judaism that our fate for the coming year is written in a book on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. But just before the holiday, we have a Bible reading that says “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life.” Rabbi Ronnie Hasson cites the medieval sage Maimonides that the verse teaches that “anything that a person wants to do, he has the ability to do…” and God will not interfere. We must take responsibility for all that happens to us. God rewards and punishes precisely because we have free will… Our success is due to many factors including the effort we put in, the decisions we make, the opportunities we capture, etc. We can’t blame God for our failures if we haven’t made the appropriate choices.
The Canadian government chose to allow Chinese scientists (later expelled) to work at the virology lab in Winnipeg. The Americans chose to fund the Wuhan lab. Should we say the pandemic is God’s will, or the result of horrible human choices? When our own weaponry is used against us, whether in acts of terrorism or acts of war, is it God’s will, or people’s (leaders’) stupidity that’s the cause?
5781 is over. What will we choose in the year 5782?
I wish you a healthy year, I wish you a happy year. I wish that you make the appropriate decisions, and choose life.