The heavens over Israel were active on Tuesday night, pouring down rain over most of Israel. But the sky over Arad in the Judean Desert adjacent to the Dead Sea was particularly turbulent with an unprecedented 828 lightning strikes recorded and hail covering the desert sands. One prominent rabbi sees a direct connection between the Biblical plague of hail mixed with lightning, the coronavirus pandemic, and the final redemption.
The Israeli Electric company reported the lightning, noting that it was an unprecedented number for May, marking an increase of 2,748% from May’s monthly average of 30. On Tuesday, the Israel Water Authority noted that the last time the country experienced two consecutive winters with this amount of rain during the winters of 1986 and 1987.
The double blessing ended a five-year drought which brought the Sea of Galilee close to its all-time low in April 2017, when the level dropped to 698 feet below sea level. The current level is minus 685 feet.
Arad is located on the border of the Negev and the Judean Deserts, 16 miles west of the Dead Sea and 28 miles east of Beersheba. The city represents a powerful example of modern events echoing Biblical history. Arad is mentioned in the Bible in the story of the failed attempt to reach the Promised Land
פשוט מטורף ⚡💧🌧️
מה שקורה פה היום במדינה!!
— oren (@orenyosian) May 5, 2020
This failed attempt to settle the Promised land reappeared in 1921. The first modern attempt to settle the area was made by the Yishuv, the body of Jewish residents in Mandatory Palestine, when the British Mandate government allowed discharged soldiers from the Jewish Legion to settle in the area. Nine men and two women attempted the task, but after four months were forced to leave because water was not found in the area.
Of course, the appearance of elemental opposites, hail and massive lightning, are graphically Biblical and are particularly relevant to our current era.
The hail was very heavy—fire flashing in the midst of the hail—such as had not fallen on the land of Egypt since it had become a nation.” Exodus 9:24
It is interesting to note that of the Ten Plagues that struck Egypt before the Exodus, three were referred to as מגיפה (magefa, an epidemic): frogs, hail, and the slaying of the firstborn. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tsfat, recently taught that these ‘epidemics’ were intended to break the stubbornness of Egypt, as per the verse in Exodus.
For this time I will send all My plagues upon your person, and your courtiers, and your people, in order that you may know that there is none like Me in all the world. Exodus 9:14
The word for plagues in this verse appears in the Hebrew as מַגֵּפֹתַי(mageyphotay, my epidemics).
“The epidemics were to teach Pharoah and Egypt that there is God and He rules over the whole world,” Rabbi Eliyahu taught, noting that was surely the lesson implicit in the pandemic that is currently ‘plaguing’ the entire world.
The rabbi noted that the cause of epidemics, most notably the current COVID-19 pandemic, is explicitly given by the prophet Ezekiel.
As for those peoples that warred against Yerushalayim, Hashem will smite them with this plague: Their flesh shall rot away while they stand on their feet; their eyes shall rot away in their sockets; and their tongues shall rot away in their mouths. Zechariah 14:12
Jewish sources predict that all of the plagues will reappear in the final Redemption but in even more powerful forms. It is written in Midrash Tanchuma, homiletic teachings collected around the fifth century, that “just as God struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues, so too He will strike the enemies of the Jewish people at the time of the Redemption.”
This concept was explained by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, a 13th-century Spanish commentator, who wrote, “In Egypt, God used only part of His strength. When the final redemption comes, God will show much, much more of His power.”