Illustration: A man praying by himself in oldest synagogue in Ukraine by Isabel Sommerfeld [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr
In Israel, when a person has been infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) — or if he or she has been in contact with a person who has tested positive for the disease — that person must undertake a two-week period of social separation and remain in an isolated, quarantined state, which in Hebrew is called, bedud.
The word bedud is the root of the Hebrew word, hitbodedut. To the renowned Hasidic master, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, hitbodedut means to pour out one’s heart and soul to G-d in a sincere, highly-emotional, personal prayer, in an isolated place, such as a forest, along the seashore, or alone in a room — a place where one can shout out, jump up and down, roll on the ground, laugh and cry, completely alone with one’s Maker. Rebbe Nachman teaches that hitbodedut is the most powerful method of connecting with G-d.
To date, this coronavirus has neither a vaccine nor cure. Very often, in a healthy person, the illness subsides like a strong bout of flu, while in other cases, it can prove fatal. All sorts of health measures must be taken, but, at the moment, humanity is relatively helpless to fight off the invisible and fast-spreading danger. Thus, for individuals and for mankind, a path to salvation is G-d.
The word “corona” is associated with the word “crown” and “kingship.” The Creator of All Things has sent the coronavirus to the world to make us realize our vulnerability and to draw our attention to Him. The Bible assures us that the L-rd is patient, but, having sent the Plague of Coronavirus down to Earth, it seems that His patience is wearing thin. It seems that G-d wants us to recognize that He is the King. He wants us to separate ourselves from the vanities of life, from false gods, and transgression, and to adopt a moral way of living.
Via a minuscule germ shaped like a crown, G-d has filled arrogant hearts with panic and fright, wiped out private fortunes, destroyed economies and mighty businesses, and brought countries to their knees. Yet, the epidemic in the air is not a punishment, but rather a helpful guidepost, like a traffic sign, to stop our reckless driving and point us in the proper direction.
Step number one is to forge a new, active, living connection to G-d. One tested and proven pathway is via hitbodedut — reaching out to Him through prayer, in the same manner that the shepherd boy, David, reached out to G-d through the Psalms which he would sing out in the verdant valleys, and on the isolated hilltops of Biblical Israel. For people who would like to give it a try, here is an example prayer that can be modified in any fashion to meet the personal style and expression of the seeker:
A Prayer to the King
Dear G-d, Creator of the Universe, King of the World, through whose Word all things come into being, the Heavens and Earth, including the coronavirus which You have sent to awaken the world from its slumber.
You have made me, and I now understand that I don’t exist by myself, through my own wisdom or strength, and not through blind forces of Nature, but You and only You are my Maker and King.
Dear G-d, please help me to form a connection with You, a real living connection; let me return to You, and embrace a healthier, moral path of living. Forgive the mistakes of my past, my errors, misjudgments, and sins. Enter my life, let me feel Your Presence, guide me in your Ways, help me to cast aside my illusions and lusts, my feelings of self-grandeur, my preoccupation with myself and endless race after earthly vanity and things that cannot save, things without lasting value and meaning, things that draw me away from You.
Please save me from the coronavirus, save my family and friends, save my country, and save all of the world. You, and only You, are the Creator and Master, The Healer and Provider of every moment, of all of the World and everything in it, including the coronavirus, which You have sent in Your mercy to bring mankind back to You — the Source of all blessing, wellbeing, good fortune, and peace.
Help me — help all of us! May this prayer be the start of a new chapter of my life, and a new chapter in the life of the world. Teach me to be grateful for all things: for the air I breathe, the water I drink, for my eyesight and hearing and ability to think and to speak, with the constant awareness that they don’t exist by themselves, but that they, and all things in my life, are all gifts, moment by moment, from You.
Help me to teach others the truth of Your existence, Your moment-by-moment Presence, Your kindness and love, and the truth of Your Torah. Just as the coronavirus spreads and multiplies from person to person, help me to teach others, person by person, in a multiplying fashion, the Truth of your Kingship over the world. Give me the words and the ability to influence others, without embarrassment or worry that they will consider me crazy or “religious” or square.
Help me to be Your joyous servant and to use the talents You have given me to spread the truth of your Being and Word, in every way that I can. Please, hear my cry, my gracious Father and King. Come into my life. Heal me. Protect me and the world from all danger, and bring us back to you in love. Gather all of the Jewish People to Israel, return Your children to the pathways of the Torah, restore Your Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and enlighten the world to Your everlasting Kingship. May it be Your will. Speedily. Amen.
Visit Tzvi Fishman’s website to read more about his work. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.