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Is COVID-19 A Giant Divine Test? – OpEd

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The coronavirus has prompted almost two-thirds of American believers to feel that God is telling humanity to change how it lives according to a poll conducted by the University of Chicago Divinity School and The Associated Press which indicates many people are searching for deeper meaning in the devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

The poll found that 62% of Americans who believe in God feel strongly or somewhat, that the virus is a sign of God telling humanity to change. Evangelical Protestants are more likely than others to believe that strongly, at 43%, compared with 28% of Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Among black Americans who believe in God, 49% say they feel strongly that God will protect them from the virus, compared with 34% of Latino and 20% of white Americans.

I think the poll should have asked two more questions about God’s protection. Whether or not people who get infected depends more on the other people; but whether infected people die depends more on one’s own belief in God and one’s own previous health. 

The good news is that 26% of Americans polled say their sense of faith or spirituality has grown stronger as a result of the outbreak. Only 1% say their sense of faith or spirituality has weakened.

All of us are being tested personally as individuals; and as organic members of a nation, a society and even the whole of humanity.

We are tested as individuals as the Qur’an states: “Indeed We shall put you to test; some with fear and hunger, and some with loss of wealth, lives, and offspring. And (Muhammad) convey good tidings to those who are patient, who say, when inflicted by hardship, “Indeed we are of God and to Him shall we return;” upon them is the blessings of Allah and His mercy.” (2:155)

And the Hebrew Bible states: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

And we are tested as nation, community or a society as God states: “So that I may test them, whether they will follow My law or not” (Torah Exodus 16:4) and “Remember the entire path along which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the desert, He sent hardships to test you.” (Torah Deuteronomy 8:2).

“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allah tests those of you who fought and (also) tests those who are patient [sufferers]? (Qur’an 3:142).

On the other hand super religious leaders In Israel have been pushing their followers to oppose anti-COVID19 measures. Many members of the ultra-Orthodox community were slow to begin heeding social distancing regulations and initially resisted the shutdown of their schools and synagogues. Several prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbis have opposed government efforts to close ultra-Orthodox schools as the pandemic began to spread across Israel in March and the fight goes on nine months later.

Roni Numa, the government official who oversees the pandemic response in the ultra-Orthodox community, said in a press briefing on January 18, 2021 that more enforcement was needed to close Haredi schools.

Numa said shuttering ultra-Orthodox schools for another 10 days would be exceedingly difficult, and emphasized that most ultra-Orthodox schools are closed, but about 15 percent remain open.

Numa said that 30% of infections in Israel were coming from the ultra-Orthodox community, but it appears that the very high rate of infection was decreasing. The ultra-Orthodox community constitutes around 10% of the general population. Some 20% of virus tests are coming back positive in ultra-Orthodox areas compared to around 5% in the general population.

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Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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