One unfortunate and painful effect of the pandemic is the cancellation of holiday celebrations. But even this social phenomenon was described by the sages as a sign, or perhaps a necessary condition, for the Messianic era.
All Holidays Except Purim Cancelled
The Yalkut Shimoni, a compilation of rabbinic commentary on the Bible believed to have been composed in the 13th century, states that “All the holidays will be canceled in the future, but the days of Purim will never be canceled.” This is based on a verse in the Book of Esther.
Consequently, these days are recalled and observed in every generation: by every family, every province, and every city. And these days of Purim shall never cease among the Yehudim, and the memory of them shall never perish among their descendants. Esther 9:28
Rabbi Berger: Coronavirus Bringing the World to “God is One
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, noted that we will have a few months until we can determine the accuracy of the prophecy and if it applies to our current situation.
“Now we have to wait and see if this Purim will be celebrated,” Rabbi Berger said. Purim will be celebrated this year on February 25. “It could be that this year, the only holiday we actually do celebrate is Purim.”
The rabbi explained that Messiah, like all the prophecies, were guaranteed to materialize. Though not necessarily as expected.
“Everyone has an image in their head of what the Messiah will look like,” Rabbi Berger said. “When students learn this Midrash, they think it means that after the Messiah arrives, something they think they will definitely know when it happens, they will decide to stop observing the holidays. What actually is happening is that against their will they are being forced to act precisely as the sages said they would in the Messianic era. All of the signs of the geula (redemption) described by the sages, including the canceling out of holidays, every single one is happening.”
Rabbi Berger explained that the coronavirus pandemic brought on the cancellation of holidays in order to bring the entire world to one realization of Redemption.
“There is nothing in our time that is more clearly a result of divine intervention than the coronavirus,” Rabbi Berger said. “It is all about God being the king which shows that it is a sign of the end of time. It has affected the entire world but at the same time, canceled out all holiday celebrations for all religions, all public events, and even changed how elections are run. Two people can be sitting in one room and one person can become infected while the other remains healthy. And how can it be that all of the best doctors and scientists can be studying this one disease, this one virus, and there are still so many disagreements and so many things they do not know. It brings down governments. That is because it is not about science. It is about God being the One true king.”
Rabbi Shlomo Katz: Expect the Unexpected
Rabbi Shlomo Katz emphasized that the coronavirus pandemic is changing many religious practices into incarnations that may be disturbing but that conform to prophecy.
‘By living without holidays, we are one million percent getting a taste of what the world will be like after Moshiach (Messiah),” Rabbi Katz said. “What we are seeing is that Hashem (God, literally ‘the name) can cancel them out but if we are stubborn, demanding that our service to God, our entire world, needs to be the way it was, then we are clogging the possible new light from entering into the world. We are being shown a new light but if we insist that Moshiach has to be the way we want it to be, then we are stopping it from coming.”
“It is terrifying to think that one day we will go back to praying in synagogue on the holidays and all we can think about is that it is great to be back in a synagogue,” Rabbi Katz said. “We need to be ready to take it further, even if we don’t know what that will be like, even if it is not what we expected.”
“We need to see this as a chance for introspection, for reevaluating, a chance to grow and accept the unexpected.”
Rabbi Katz pointed out that the last holiday celebrated in a normal fashion before the pandemic was Hanukkah, celebrated last December. He referred to a teaching by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov who cited a Midrash which stated, “In the future, all sacrifices, with the exception of the Thanksgiving-sacrifice, will be discontinued. (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 9:7)”.
“Rebbe Nachman said that since Hannukkah is all about thanksgiving, it is a taste of olam haba (the world to come),” Rabbi Katz said. “It has an eternal aspect to it.”