What are the symptoms of rabbis

Life is sacred

Sore throat, chills, body aches: An employee of the auto supplier Webasto in Stockdorf near Munich complained about these symptoms. He had been in contact with a colleague from China who tested positive for the corona virus after returning home.

On January 27, we received the news that he was the first to be infected with the new virus in Germany - "Patient 1".
That was six months ago. At the time, many - including doctors and politicians - thought the alarming reports about possible effects and the risk of infection were exaggerated.

disease The view of the new disease is now different - a completely different one. Almost 17 million people worldwide have been infected, and more than 660,000 have died of Covid-19. Not least from Israel and the USA there are worrying reports.

In Germany, we seem to be getting through the pandemic quite lightly. But we also have more than 9,000 victims to complain about, many people are ill or suffer from the consequences, the economy has been badly damaged after the lockdown lasting several weeks, and many have to fear for their livelihood.

The virus has changed the world, the reality of every individual.

The virus has changed the world, the reality of every individual. Jewish life is no longer what it used to be. Who could have imagined that not going to the synagogue for prayer is a mitzvah? Who suspected that the Jewish state would close its borders as much as possible and that Jews from the diaspora would no longer be allowed to enter Israel? Half a year of Corona: This moment is suitable for pausing, thinking about what we are currently experiencing and how we can understand it.

Freedom rights Former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks recently recalled that the pandemic has raised a number of fundamental moral and political issues. How far should governments go to stop the spread of the virus, to what extent can freedom rights be restricted? How far can economic restrictions extend if bankruptcies, mass unemployment and huge mountains of debt are the result?

It is noteworthy that the vast majority of governments around the world have taken the same measures: social distancing, i.e. keeping your distance, wearing a mask and a lockdown during the phase of the highest infection rates. Not the economic aspect, but the preservation of life came first. In the spirit of the Talmudic idea (Sanhedrin 4,5): "Whoever saves even one soul saves the whole world."

Not the economic aspect, but the preservation of life
first of all.

It was different in history. Rabbi Sacks refers to the Tower of Babel or the Egyptian pyramids, the millions of dead under Stalin or the communist regime in China. "The fact that virtually all nations have chosen life in the face of the pandemic was a significant victory for the Torah ethics on the sacredness of life," writes Rabbi Sacks.

At the same time, however, he mentions the objection of those who argue that they are overreacting in view of the corona threat. That not only the encroachment on the freedom of each individual is unjustifiable, but also that the price that society and the economy have to pay is too high.

The consequences of healing are worse than those of the disease. There are no absolute values ​​in this regard. Life is not above all else when, for example, cars, which claim thousands of lives every year, are allowed on the road.

The Talmud has other ethical dilemmas as well. There, for example, (Baba Metzia 62a) tells of two people who were lost in the desert but only had one jug of water. So should only one drink and survive, or should both share the water and die? Our sages disagreed, with Rabbi Akiva taking the widely accepted view that whoever owns the jug of water should drink. We have to help our neighbor, but not at the expense of our own lives.

We know what to do in the coming weeks and months as well.

consequences Let's get back to the pandemic. We have learned how we can protect and possibly save the lives of others: keep our distance, wear a mask, comply with quarantine rules. They are severe restrictions with far-reaching consequences. But there is no alternative if we behave according to the Torah, which repeatedly makes it clear to us that we should sanctify life.

So we know what to do in the coming weeks and months. And we trust God, who has already given us the medicine with every disease - which we hope will be available to everyone in relation to Covid-19 in a timely manner - we are convinced that this pandemic will soon lose its horrors. We shouldn't naively trust that everything will be back to the way it was six months ago. But we must not lose hope that everything will turn out for the better.

The author is a rabbi of the Frankfurt / Main Jewish Community and a member of the board of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference Germany (ORD).