The final two days of Passover, which begin Tuesday evening and continue Wednesday and Thursday, are associated with the Israelites crossing the Sea of Reeds, with the Pharaoh’s army in pursuit. The Israelites were stuck between a rock and a hard place. They could either drown in the sea or face certain defeat against a superior military foe.
This seemingly lose-lose scenario is similar to the dilemmas that have faced nations all over the globe. Either keep life normal and risk the spread of a virus that could kill huge portions of the population, or put in place social distancing measures that will lead to a massive economic downturn. While both options are dire, there really is only one logical choice: saving lives trumps the economy.
The coronavirus pandemic has created other challenges as well, such as how to acquire badly needed supplies to fight infections. Each country has responded with its own resources, to varying degrees of success. In Israel, the Mossad spy agency has played a critical role in buying medical equipment abroad.
While it might seem odd for an intelligence agency to be involved in a pandemic response, it’s not the first time the Mossad has engaged in unusual missions. Before and shortly after the creation of the state, the Mossad set up a network to bring Jews clandestinely to Israel. The organization had agents and assets all over the world bringing in refugees from the Holocaust and communities from hostile Arab countries.
One of the keys to succeeding in the face of crisis, both at the Sea of Reeds and now against the coronavirus is faith in authority. The ancient Israelites needed to trust in Moses and God to save them, and in the end they were able to walk on dry land through the sea as the waters parted. Today, modern Israelis have faith in the competence of Mossad, even as they worry about other aspects of their government.
Only if the Israelites believed that God would save them could they risk going into the water as it parted. Only if the public is willing to stay at home and engage in social distancing will those measures be effective against the virus. We must have faith in our authorities, which is why the erosion of confidence in our collective institutions over the years has been so damaging. Working together in common cause is the path forward out of any crisis.
Once the ancient Israelites went through the Sea of Reeds they sang the beautiful Shirat HaYam, Song of the Sea, in praise of God. They were thankful for their deliverance and the blessings of freedom and security. I pray that when we are come out of this pandemic we will be able to sing our own song of health and safety.