Perhaps one of the most painful realizations of tragedy is that someone will inevitably try to manipulate hardship to advance their own ideological agenda.
I was therefore, not surprised and yet still deeply saddened to see that the current Coronavirus outbreak was no exception.
In most circumstances, such comments should not even be dignified with a response. They are so clearly beyond the pale of any mainstream understanding of Halakha or Hashkafah or how we as Torah Jews are supposed to perceive God’s hand in the world. Especially in these trying times as we are so focused on ensuring our communal physical health, perhaps these comments do not even deserve a response.
Yet, the sad reality is that this rabbi has followers who are willing to embrace his word as sacred and for that reason, we cannot remain silent. Even more concerning is that they make a mark on impressionable young people, so we cannot remain silent.
As Jews, we are entitled to believe that everything in the universe happens for a reason. Yet the Talmud (Brachot 5a) is clear: when tragedy befalls, check your own spiritual behavior – don’t castigate others. To blame, in this sort of pseudo-prophetic fashion, this pandemic on any group is an act of hubris and incongruent with being a Jewish leader.
Our world in general is facing a dark and disturbing challenge.
We have the power to choose how we respond: we can either add to the darkness and fuel the pandemic with hateful rhetoric or recognize the need to respond with love and understanding and to deepen the positive bonds that connect us.
It is deeply regrettable that Rabbi Mazouz ignores this basic understanding of who we are as a Jewish people.
Rather he is manipulating a desperate global crisis to try and advance his personal views regarding the gay community. While I fully recognize that there is considerable debate within our Jewish world on how to approach the issue of homosexuality, any attempts to divide our people at this time are both abhorrent and deeply damaging.
As in crises and tragedies throughout history, addressing and overcoming them will require a common front.
This need not mean that we think or behave alike, but it must mean that we learn to respect each other – despite any such differences in behavior and thought.