As a member of numerous congregations over the past 60 years, I have heard the commandment for Jews to heal the world, tikkun olam, countless times. Saving one life saves the universe. I am very familiar with the Holocaust, and I have studied recounts of the lives of Righteous Gentiles like Wallenberg, Schindler and many others who risked torture and death to help oppressed Jews, often total strangers, escape the extermination that 6 million did not.
Comes now the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 4.5 million, and, as always, the death toll continues to rise. This is the holocaust of our generation, and I find the mixed response of Jews to be appallingly hypocritical, with many opting not to get vaccinated.
If this is not the time to save the world, when do you think that time might come? Are we mindlessly repeating the prayers by rote, not considering their real meaning? My present congregation leaders continue to say these prayers but have not promoted vaccination, apparently not wanting to annoy anyone by standing up for principle.
We live in a state where our governor will bribe schools to eschew mask and social distance mandates, endangering Arizona’s precious children and creating a reservoir of less symptomatic disease which will prolong this pandemic. Meanwhile, children’s hospitals across the country are sagging under the burgeoning number of cases of extremely ill youngsters. The chosen people must choose to be better than our government.
As a physician, I have had the opportunity to witness first hand exhausted patients failing to breathe adequately and going on respirators, sedated and isolated in ICUs, viewed by family only on iPads. Some survived, others didn’t. Many of the survivors were broken.
Regardless of what you may have read, the virus is orders of magnitude more dangerous than any vaccine presented to the public.
I recall clearly the day in about 1960 when a local Holocaust survivor came to our Sunday school class. He described the horror of being separated from his family at the train station, being transported to the camp and then laboring under the coercion of his Nazi guards. As his denouement he rolled up his sleeve and showed us the number tattooed on his forearm.
Now is the time for us to roll up our sleeves. There is no coercion except your commitment to save the world by doing the right thing. JN
Michael Epstein is a neurologist who has been working in Greater Phoenix since 1976.