The La Times recently interviewed a woman in Missouri who decided against receiving the Covid vaccine. She explained why she and her friends decided against vaccination, saying: “the stronger someone’s trust is in the Lord, the least likely they are to want the vaccine or feel that it’s necessary.”

When I read this quote, I realized that inaccurate theology can be fatal. If she contracts Covid, the underlying cause of her illness would be a misunderstanding of how God operates in the world.

“Behold I set before today a blessing and a curse…” This verse teaches that God presents options for us, between life and death, blessings and curses. We can’t merely sit back passively and assume that everything will be fine. We must actively choose between these options.

This idea is echoed in an old story, recounted by Rabbi Edward Feinstein in Tough Questions Jews Ask: “A man who goes up to heaven at the end of his life. He stands before the throne of God. The man looks up at God and says, “You know, I’ve very angry at You! Can’t You see that the world You created is filled with suffering and ugliness and destruction? Why don’t You do something to fix the world’s mess?

God looks down at the man, and in a gentle voice says, “I did do something. I sent you.”

In this time of uncertainty, may we do everything in our power to “choose life,” so that we and our descendants may live.

"An eye for an eye..." (Exodus 21:24)

The Vilna Gaon noted that this verse doesn’t actually say “an eye for an eye,” but rather “an eye beneath an eye.” He noted a hint in the verse that it refers to monetary compensation for injuries. The letters beneath (subsequent to) the letters in the Hebrew alphabet for the word ayin (eye), are the letters of the word kesef (money).

As this pandemic drags on and intensifies, our eyes are pained and weary. Our vision blurs from endless hours staring at screens. In our exhaustion, this teaching offers a different perspective. This verse teaches that to understand what God wants from us, instead of looking ahead at the screen, we must look “beneath.” When our friend tells us on the phone that they are fine, can we hear the pain under their words?

Chris Burkard described photographing surfers in the arctic as: “Riding the storm surf with crazy undertows and huge currents and winds from some of the roughest seas in the world, but it all kind of comes together when the storms subside and there’s these glimpses in between these harsh moments when you get perfection.” May we live to see the day when the storm of this pandemic subsides. Until then, may we glimpse the glimmer of hope hidden beneath our sorrows.

As Amanda Gorman wrote in her inaugural poem: “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, If only we’re brave enough to be it.”