During the Holiday of Sukkot, we celebrate the divine providence that protected Jewish people from the sun and other dangers of the desert during their forty years of wandering in the desert. This providence came in the form of the ananei ha-koved (“the clouds of glory”). The clouds of divine glory hovered over Jewish people protecting them from the elements—hashgachah pratit (“divine providence”) was openly revealed.
The concept of divine providence is often misunderstood. People expect open miracles. Nowadays, we no longer merit the open revelation of divine providence, which is concealed. However, it is still here guiding and protecting us, if we open ourselves to its protection.
This reminds me of an old parable. After a shipwreck, a Jew was stranded on an uninhabited island. The Jew prayed to G‑d for a miracle to save him. A rescue boat came by, but he refused to board the boat telling the rescuers that he was waiting for divine intervention. Two more boats came by, but the story repeated itself—this devout Jew refused to avail himself to human help awaiting a miracle. The miracle did not come, and the Jew died from thirst and hunger. As he came to Heaven and stood up before his Maker, he protested. “O dear G‑d, I believed in you; I prayed to you; why did you not save me?” cried out the man. G‑d looked at him sadly and said, “I sent the boat three times for you… What else did you expect?”
We are in the midst of a terrible pandemic that claimed the lives of more than 670,000 Americans and 4.55 million worldwide. In these times of darkness, it is easy to succumb to depression and hopelessness, thinking the G‑d abandoned His children. In truth, however, the hashgachah pratit (“divine providence”) is working overtime. The unprecedented success of the Coronavirus vaccine developed by scientists in record times was nothing short of a miracle. But instead of celebrating this miracle and boarding the proverbial rescue boat, we are sitting and waiting for a divine miracle, or rely on some unproven remedies peddled by charlatans of all stripes, sometimes disguised as “doctors” and other times, as “rabbis.” The overwhelming majority of doctors recommend vaccination. Yet, many in our community listen to one deranged doctor who says otherwise. Almost every rabbi counsels his congregants to vaccinate and to listen to majority-held medical opinions. Yet, many of our brethren chose to listen to a few misguided “rabbis,” who go against halachah and against Torah telling people not to listen to doctors.
Let us not be like that Jew waiting for a miracle refusing to get on the boat G‑d sent to save him. Please, get vaccinated and get on the boat of safety and reason—the boat that G‑d prepared for us. Let us make this joyful holiday about ananei ha-kavod, not about ananei ha-COVID! Hag Sameach!