Why Social Distancing?
YOUTH MUST BE TAUGHT TO BE ASHAMED OF SIN
In our days, there are various groups seeking to force extreme liberal and leftist ideologies upon everyone, to try to justify every sinner, claiming that people are born with negative tendencies which are immutable and therefore nothing to be ashamed about. These groups attempt to encourage people to indulge in all kinds of evil desires in public, in order to destroy their human attribute of shame.
Although this appears to be a new and progressive ideology, it is actually the ancient ideology of the antediluvian era, as the people of the Generation of the Flood had an ideology of recklessness and promiscuity. They legislated abominable behavior into the official public record, including redefining marriage, and this caused the Flood to come, as our Sages taught, “anywhere were licentiousness can be found, chaos and bedlam enter the world, and kill the good and the evil alike” (Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 26:5).
The punishment for public sinners is worse than the punishment of private sinners. The reason for this is explained in the Talmud (Kiddushin 40a), that the public sinner has an additional grave sin of “Chillul Hashem”, as he is publicly denigrating the laws of the King of the World, and this causes others to learn from him to sin, and this eliminates shame, which is a deterrent from sin. For this reason, the people of the generation of the Flood received a most public punishment, as the Holy Zohar explains (Noach 66a).
Our Sages teach (Tosefta Taanis 2:12), that when Hashem promised that He would never punish the world again with a flood, it meant a Flood of water, but an epidemic flood can come, as is found in the prophecy of Zechariah (14:12) that in the Messianic Era there will be a tremendous epidemic throughout the entire world.
This harsh punishment of an infectious contagion that causes an epidemic, comes particularly for the sin of public immorality. Our Sages in the Talmud teach (Archin 16a), that plagues of leprosy come on account of immorality, as we find that Pharaoh, King of Egypt, received a tremendous plague of leprosy when he kidnapped Sarah the wife of Avraham (Genesis/Bereishis 12:17). The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah – Metzora 16) says that Hashem smote Pharaoh and his family with a contagious leprosy, because someone who is afflicted with a contagious disease needs to quarantine and maintain social distancing, and this is a message from Hashem to remain far from physical intimacy with forbidden relations.
This is what the wicked Bilaam taught to the Midianites when they sought to harm the Israelites. His advice was to try with all of their effort to pass onto the Israelites the Midianite and Moabite ideologies of licentiousness, in order to smite them with an epidemic. The Midianites therefore worked hard to nullify all of the fences of modesty and shame, as the Talmud says (Sanhedrin 106a) that the Midianite women went out immodestly to greet the Israelite men, and they tempted them with to worship the idol Baal Peor, whose worship was to nullify all aspects of modesty and shame.
The Midianites continued to tempt the Israelites not to be ashamed of their natural evil lusts, thus they should allow public immodesty and immorality. For this reason, they sent Cozbi, the Midianite princess, to give up her royal dignity and engage in promiscuity, in order to demonstrate that even the most dignified families did not need to be ashamed of this. They were able to tempt many to accept their ideology, the most prominent of them was Zimri ben Sallu, the Prince of the Tribe of Shimon, who went and publicly took Cozbi in front of Moses and all Israel. For this reason, the epidemic spread immediately in Israel, as the Talmud explains (Sanhedrin 82a).
Over the years, I have found that when I asked youth to accept upon themselves purity and holiness in their lives, or other mitzvos, some of them answered that Psychologists or Psychiatrists told them that by their nature they are not able to do this, but when I explained to them that they are actually able to do so, they eventually accepted this, and then they saw that indeed they are able to overcome this, and they are worthy by this to live a happy life and to build faithful Jewish homes.
Parents and teachers must have mercy on the younger generation, and to teach them in a sweet way the pure education which we received from the previous generations, that we must be ashamed of sin, and that a person can indeed overcome his desires, and that this is for one’s benefit in This World and in the Next World.
This is all the more so in this season of the Three Weeks, as this is a season to strengthen ourselves in this matter, because this was the sin that brought about the Destruction of the Temple, because they were mired in sins, publicly and with pride, as the Midrash teaches that this is why they were stricken with a contagious disease (Tanchuma – Tazria 11), and our Sages teach that Jerusalem was only destroyed because they had no shame from one another (Shabbos 109b).
In the merit of being stronger in this issue, we can be worthy to be rescued from every type of illness and epidemic, and be worthy by this to the complete redemption, soon and in our days.