A Response to the Rabbi Who Contends G-d Is Not Able to Cure Only the Good People From The Corona Plague

last updated 9th of Nissan, 5780 (April 3, 2020). See Are Chinese Atheists Who Persecute Judaism and Threaten Israel, Bad People? for examples of “Bad People”.
If one pays close attention to the Avinu Malkeinu prayer, one will notice that among the things asked for in the prayer is to eradicate pestilence, sword, famine, captivity, iniquity and destruction from the “members of your Covenant”. The prayer does not say eliminate plagues entirely. Indeed the Exodus from Egypt happened after G-d did in fact distinguish by a miracle, the first-born of Israel from the first-born of the bad people (such as, the Egyptians, the first-born of the captives, etc.) in the tenth plague, showing clearly that G-d has that ability to make distinctions.
I was told by a friend, that the rabbi who I choose not to name, responded to this claim by saying today we are not worthy of such a miracle and we have to pray the Corona Plague stops from everyone both good people and evil people.
Three Answers to this objection.

  1. Our sages teach us that when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they were on a very, very, low spiritual level. But nevertheless the book of Shmot/Exodus Chapter 2 (translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, z”l) states that after the people prayed to G-d, miracles started, as it says:

    2:23 A long time then passed , and the king of Egypt died. The Israelites were still groaning because of their subjugation. When they cried out because of their slavery, their pleas went up before God.
    2:24 God heard their cries, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
    2:25 God saw the Israelites, and He was about to show concern.

    Immediately afterwards the Torah records in Shmot/Exodus chapter 3, the miracle of the burning bush.
    For the benefit of review I will quote what took place.

    3:1 Moses tended the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro, sheik of Midian. He led the flock to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s Mountain, in the Horeb area.
    3:2 God’s angel appeared to [Moses] in the heart of a fire, in the middle of a thorn-bush. As he looked, [Moses] realized that the bush was on fire, but was not being consumed.
    3:3 Moses said [to himself], ‘I must go over there and investigate this wonderful phenomenon. Why doesn’t the bush burn?’
    3:4 When God saw that [Moses] was going to investigate, He called to him from the middle of the bush.

    ‘Moses, Moses!’ He said.

    ‘Yes,’ replied [Moses].
    3:5 ‘Do not come any closer,’ said [God]. ‘Take your shoes off your feet. The place upon which you are standing is holy ground.’
    3:6 [God then] said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.’

    Moses hid his face, since he was afraid to look at the Divine.
    3:7 God said, ‘I have indeed seen the suffering of My people in Egypt. I have heard how they cry out because of what their slave-drivers [do], and I am aware of their pain.
    3:8 I have come down to rescue them from Egypt’s power. I will bring them out of that land, to a good, spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Yebusites.
    3:9 ‘Right now the cry of the Israelites is coming to Me. I also see the pressure to which Egypt is subjecting them.
    3:10 Now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh. Bring My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’

    The return of Moses to Egypt on this mission ultimately led to the ten plagues, where all religious people admit that G-d distinguished between Israelites and Egyptians.

  2. Even if the Rabbi would be correct that there is no way without a miracle to save only the good people from the Corona Plague without saving the bad people, G-d must be asked for help in a respectful manner. It is respectful to ask G-d to save the good people and not those who oppose the Almighty. I base this not on some logical presumption that one can argue with, but rather based on the halachic definition of “Lo Tichanem” as brought down by Kol Bo, Magen Avraham, Chatam Sofer, Pri Megadim, Chayei Adam, Ben Ish Chai, Taz, Eliya Rabba, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Siach Yitzchak Ch. 407 and others.
  3. I would like to suggest that there are natural ways that the good could be saved without the evil. For example, if the good people were infected with a beneficial virus that would grant them protection from the Corona Virus, while the evil people would be left as they are.

Viruses aren’t all nasty – some can actually protect our health

Bacteriophages are viruses that attack and infect bacteria.
From shutterstock.com

Cynthia Mathew, University of Canberra

Viruses are mostly known for their aggressive and infectious nature.

It’s true, most viruses have a pathogenic relationship with their hosts – meaning they cause diseases ranging from a mild cold to serious conditions like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). They work by invading the host cell, taking over its cellular machinery and releasing new viral particles that go on to infect more cells and cause illness.

But they’re not all bad. Some viruses can actually kill bacteria, while others can fight against more dangerous viruses. So like protective bacteria (probiotics), we have several protective viruses in our body.

Read more:
Discovered in WWI, bacterial viruses may be our allies in a post-antibiotic age

Protective ‘phages’

Bacteriophages (or “phages”) are viruses that infect and destroy specific bacteria. They’re found in the mucus membrane lining in the digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts.

Mucus is a thick, jelly-like material that provides a physical barrier against invading bacteria and protects the underlying cells from being infected. Recent research suggests the phages present in the mucus are part of our natural immune system, protecting the human body from invading bacteria.

Phages have actually been used to treat dysentery, sepsis caused by Staphylococcus aureus, salmonella infections and skin infections for nearly a century. Early sources of phages for therapy included local water bodies, dirt, air, sewage and even body fluids from infected patients. The viruses were isolated from these sources, purified, and then used for treatment.

Phages have attracted renewed interest as we continue to see the rise of drug resistant infections. Recently, a teenager in the United Kingdom was reportedly close to death when phages were successfully used to treat a serious infection that had been resistant to antibiotics.

Read more:
Potential treatment for eye cancer using tumor-killing virus

Nowadays, phages are genetically engineered. Individual strains of phages are tested against target bacteria, and the most effective strains are purified into a potent concentration. These are stored as either bacteriophage stocks (cocktails), which contain one or more strains of phages and can target a broad range of bacteria, or as Adapted bacteriophages, which target specific bacteria.

Before treatment, a swab is collected from the infected area of the patient, cultured in the lab to identify the bacterial strain, and tested against the therapeutic phage stocks. Treatment can be safely administered orally, applied directly onto wounds or bacterial lesions, or even spread onto infected surfaces. Clinical trials for intravenous administration of phages are ongoing.

Beneficial viral infections

Viral infections at a young age are important to ensure the proper development of our immune systems. In addition, the immune system is continuously stimulated by systemic viruses at low levels sufficient to develop resistance to other infections.

Some viruses we come across protect humans against infection by other pathogenic viruses.

For example, latent (non-symptomatic) herpes viruses can help human natural killer cells (a specific type of white blood cell) identify cancer cells and cells infected by other pathogenic viruses. They arm the natural killer cells with antigens (a foreign substance that can cause an immune response in the body) that will enable them to identify tumour cells.

This is both a survival tactic by the viruses to last longer within their host, and to get rid of competitive viruses to prevent them from damaging the host. In the future, modified versions of viruses like these could potentially be used to target cancer cells.

Some viruses are bad news, but others might safeguard our health.
Image from: Health vector created by stories – www.freepik.com

Pegivirus C or GBV-C is a virus that does not cause clinical symptoms. Multiple studies have shown HIV patients infected with GBV-C live longer in comparison to patients without it. The virus slows disease progression by blocking the host receptors required for viral entry into the cell, and promotes the release of virus-detecting interferons and cytokines (proteins produced by white blood cells that activate inflammation and removal of infected cells or pathogens).

In another example, noroviruses were shown to protect the gut of mice when they were given antibiotics. The protective gut bacteria that were killed by the antibiotics made the mice susceptible to gut infections. But in the absence of good bacteria, these noroviruses were able to protect their hosts.

The future of therapeutic viruses

Modern technology has enabled us to understand more about the complexities of the microbial communities that are part of the human body. In addition to good bacteria, we now know there are beneficial viruses present in the gut, skin and even blood.

Our understanding of this viral component is largely in its infancy. But it has huge potential in helping us understand viral infections, and importantly, how to fight the bad ones. It could also shed light on the evolution of the human genome, genetic diseases, and the development of gene therapies.

Read more:
Explainer: what is a virus?

The Conversation

Cynthia Mathew, Research Assistant, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.