The Solution to COVID-19
Parshat Tetzaveh 5780
COVID-19 , also known as the novel coronavirus, may have started in China, but to everyone’s surprise it was the US that first implemented the mandatory TRUE implants. Following the US success at putting down the virus, almost every country in the world rolled out mandatory TRUE implants, and by 2025, over 70% of adults in the world had a TRUE implant firmly attached to their forehead. Their prevalence and effectiveness is what eradicated the coronavirus, but that was when the real problems started, with the rise of the horrifying Generation of Radical Honesty.
It all started when people began ignoring the Centers for Disease Control’s quarantining rules. People didn’t want to be locked up in their homes for fourteen days, especially if they felt no symptoms. Some feared the isolation, others couldn’t afford not to go to work, and still others didn’t want to miss the vacations they had planned for so long. People began mocking the CDC as being overly-protective, the anti-vaxxers started claiming the whole illness was fake news put out by Big Pharma to exert their control over our minds and bodies, and it became an act of “revolution” to ignore the CDC. People called it “Speaking Truth to Power!”
Within weeks, there were millions of people walking the streets with the COVID-19 virus coursing through their veins, most of them not showing any outward symptoms. Scientists, epidemiologists, and the US government was deeply concerned. The death toll rose into the hundreds of thousands, and even more concerning was that the virus was mutating, and COVID-20 was even more deadly, and had a longer incubation period.
Suddenly, the nonchalance people had toward the disease turned into full blown panic. People were stocking up on everything, leaving shelves empty. People stopped leaving their houses. Businesses ground to a halt, hospitals were finding it impossible to get their staffs to show up, looters walked the streets with impunity, emergency services couldn’t respond to fires or calls for ambulances. The country was falling apart at the seams.
It was the perfect storm for BioVeritas, a small biotech device startup in Silicon Valley. They had been working on an implantable monitoring system for people with diabetes and heart disease, with a digital readout on the outside of the body. They approached the government and pitched a new version of their product, one that could test for coronaviruses and then display the result on a screen on the outside. The implant didn’t need any batteries, it was powered by your brain’s electroactivity. They recommended putting it on the forehead, where it would be visible to all. This way, you could know immediately if someone had the virus simply by looking at them. If the government made it mandatory and truly enforced its implementation, it could cut out all the fear of uncertainty. Those who were sick could be taken care of, those who were not could go back to work, and the country could begin to rebuild.
No one liked the idea of a brain implant with a screen on the forehead, but no one could come up with a better alternative, and everyone agreed that radical measures were going to be needed to bring the country back from the brink, and the US signed it into law, calling it the TRUE implant, for Threat Readout Using Electrodata. The rollout was difficult, some people were fine with the implant, they knew it was the only option, but many people resisted. The government deployed over a million troops to help ensure compliance.
There were two ways you could get your implant. You could show up to your assigned hospital at your assigned time, and you would be in and out in half an hour. Using specialized laser guided equipment a doctor would drill a tiny hole in your skull, insert the implant electrode, activate an anchor that would keep it from moving around in your brain and then attach the screen to the outside. The final step was a tough one, the surgeon would basically staple the screen to your forehead with special staples covered in healing agents. The person would be given a few days’ worth of painkillers, and have a slight headache, but by the time they walked out of the hospital there was a small screen on their forehead telling everyone that they were coronavirus free.
The other way you could get your implant was by not showing up at your assigned hospital. Then the mobile surgical units would get you. Thousands of eighteen wheelers were converted into surgical theaters. A mobile unit would arrive in town in the morning accompanied by hundreds of troops. The troops would go door to door searching homes, using advanced infrared and bio-detectors to find people’s hiding places, and anyone they found without a TRUE implant would be given a quick shot of anesthetic, and their unconscious body would be brought to the mobile surgical unit, where they would get the implant and wake up on the curb without any painkillers to deal with the post-op headaches.
Within four months 92% of Americans had a TRUE implant, and infection rates dropped. Visitors weren’t allowed into the country without a TRUE implant, and even if you were in the country, you couldn’t get into any public building without an implant, no doctor would treat you without the implant, and no one would hire you. Besides, once everyone had the implant, anyone without the implant would look highly suspicious and people would stay away from you, and call 911 to report you.
The system was brutal, but effective. You no longer had to fear everyone on the subway, people could go back to work, and the country could go back to business as usual. The people who did have the virus knew to stay out of the public, because their foreheads would be flashing red, warning everyone that they were positive for the virus. Early on, people tried to cover their implants when they were positive, but the system was ready for that, and as soon as the sensors on the forehead readouts measured that you were awake and covering your implant, you would start getting a tingling in your brain that would increase in intensity until you uncovered it. You were stuck with it, but people accepted it because it was for the public good and the US was the first country to beat the coronavirus.
Most other developed countries followed suit, and soon the only people in the world without TRUE implants were those who lived in third world countries, who couldn’t afford them. This did create a further gap between the developing world and developed nations as people no longer wanted to go on vacation in any country that wasn’t TRUE implant compliant, but people were willing to miss out on trips to Cambodia or Kenya if it lowered their risk of virus infection.
The TRUE implant didn’t only fight coronavirus, as time went on, the implants were given the ability to diagnose more diseases or illnesses. Every few weeks, the TRUE implant would receive a wireless update, and become more powerful. Cancers were being caught earlier, diabetics were able to use the TRUE implant to track their blood sugar levels, and soon even the common cold was tracked. Sure, it was intrusive to have a forehead screen and total transparency about your health status, but most people felt that better health outcomes for the whole country was a worthwhile tradeoff.
That all changed on May Day of 2029, when the Radical Honesty hack was introduced into the system. No one knew for certain where it came from, but most fingers pointed to Russia, the country that had been focused on sowing distrust and chaos across the globe since the 2016 US elections. Regardless of where it came from, it changed the dynamic of human relations across the globe. What seemed like a standard wireless update of the TRUE implant system was actually a takeover of the system by a computer bug. The implants no longer displayed the health of the wearer, but rather a readout of what they were thinking, unfiltered and uncensored. The hacker group plastered the internet with videos in every language, all showing the same thing, a joker face and the following statement:
“Dear fellow citizens of the earth, we are ushering in the Generation of Radical Honesty. No longer will you be able to hide your thoughts deep inside your skull, they will now be easily readable on your screens. Stop lying to everyone, and learn to embrace Radical Honesty, because whether you like it or not, it’s now out there. It’s time we all got to know each other a little better.”
The Radical Honesty hack was far worse in its damage to humanity than coronavirus had ever been. Husbands and wives got into massive fights daily by reading each other’s minds, every employee who hated their boss could no longer hide it, people lost friends daily when they realized that their “friends” were only in it for the perks, whole societies started coming apart at the seams. The richest found surgeries to remove their implants, but that only made them less trustworthy to everyone else. Relationships of every kind, parental, romantic, business, and friendships were disintegrating. As of this writing, the greatest human crisis is the Generation of Radical Honesty, and the solution has still not been found.
Honesty is a good thing, but radical honesty has no place in society, because human relationships of all kinds are complex structures and require a lot of cushioning in order to thrive.
It is precisely our ability not to blurt out whatever comes to our minds that allows us to build relationships in the proper order. I may think that the guy trying to sell me a car is a pathetic loser using the same “Let me go speak to my manager, I don’t know if we can go this low…” tactic on me, but if I tell him that, we’re probably not going to have a transaction. I may be deeply disappointed in my child’s activities, but if I tell them that, I likely will cut off the ability to relate to them for the next few years. I may think that my spouse is wasting too much time and neglecting our children, but if I just say it like that, I may wreck any chance of that changing. My spouse may feel like I’m letting go of myself and becoming physically less attractive, but if they tell me that, sparks will fly, resentments will build, disaster will ensue.
Rabbi Shlomo Friefeld, OBM, the founder of the Sh’or Yoshuv yeshiva, was a master at understanding human beings, and relating to them accordingly. He used to say, “There are times when I meet someone, and in five minutes I know what I need to tell them, but it takes five years before I can tell it to them.” He understood that a world of radical honesty is a world of all elbows and no sensitivity.
This makes it all the more surprising that on Purim there is a Mitzvah to drink to the point of intoxication. When we get drunk, we lose our inhibitions and all the guardedness that we normally have is gone. As the Sages say, “Nichnas yayin, yatzah sod, wine comes in and secrets come out!” The distance between our brain and our mouth is greatly shortened, and things come tumbling out unexpectedly. So how does Purim work? Why do we not have relationships falling apart the morning after? How are people still married, children still respect their parents, students can still face their rabbis after repeated Purims, where people are getting drunk and becoming Radically Honest?
The message of Purim is that G-d is behind the scenes, always pulling the strings, always watching over us, planting the salvation before the crisis. G-d is ultimately good, and even though the Jewish people had quite a scare, when they thought that G-d abandoned them, they came to realize that G-d never did such a thing and that at the innermost level, He was holding our hand the whole time. But the message doesn’t have to stop there.
The Jewish people are married to G-d through the Torah. When G-d “proposed to us” at Har Sinai, offering us the opportunity to be His special treasure, and we accepted, we became to a certain degree one with G-d. There are numerous sources in the Zohar, the writing of the Ramchal, and many others that speak of the relationship in slightly different terms, but the main theme is that there is a oneness between G-d, the Jewish people, and the Torah. The Torah is the glue that binds us to G-d, cementing us into our relationship with Him.
Purim was a time that we re-affirmed our commitment to this relationship, as the Talmud explicitly states (Shabbos 88a), “they reaccepted it with love in the times of Achashveirosh.” When we did this, we once again became even more closely entwined with G-d. And if Purim teaches us that ultimately G-d is good and that no matter what shows on the outside, on the inner level G-d is always with us, the same can be said about every single Jew. Every one of us is good, and no matter what we do on the outside, deep inside we have a burning soul that only wants to be elevated by coming closer to G-d and closer to our brethren. Yes, that Jewish teenager selling drugs out of his parents basement, and that father that seems checked out of reality and lost in his phone, and that defiant teenager who keeps blogging all her pain out into the world making everyone look terrible, they all are 100% good at the core, and what we see is only the outside levels, the wounded flesh.
On Purim, the one day that G-d pulls back the curtain and shows us that He is always there, we are encouraged to pull back the curtain and discover who we really are. Go and watch people intoxicated by Purim and see what type of Radical Honesty comes out of them; it is not the Radical Honesty of the world, cursing everyone out, telling everyone just what you think of them, no, it’s the Radical Honesty of a Jewish soul laid bare. You will see people drunkenly talking about how much they want to be a better person, a better Yid, you see people telling other people how much they value them and how highly they think of them, you see people spouting out Dvar Torah after Dvar Torah, showing what their innards are really made of.
Purim is not only there to show us how great G-d is, but also how great the Jewish people, His people are. And when we open ourselves to Radical Honesty on this holy and elevated day, and discover that deep inside, on the innermost level, we are a holy and divine people, with desires solely focused on spiritual accomplishment and elevated growth, we become greater people because we know who we are, and we know what our true colors are. Purim becomes a day of discovery and transformation, a day that we are ready to reaffirm our commitment to Torah because we realize that we truly do want the lifestyle it prescribes, and a day that colors the rest of the year in a glow of confidence, love, and spiritual growth!
Parsha Dvar Torah
In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah describes the different vestments worn by the Kohanim, the priests, in the Temple and Tabernacle. There is incredible detail given to the various vestments, from the ornate golden breastplate inlaid with twelve priceless gemstones, to the turquoise robe, or the golden forehead plate. The Torah describes the measurements, the materials, and even the particular weave technique used in each garment.
The Sages tell us that these garments were just as important as the sacrifices brought in the temple as the garments themselves were able to effect atonement for various sins. This seems a bit difficult to understand. We can appreciate how bringing a sacrifice would effect atonement. A person would have to spend money, shlep an animal all the way to Jerusalem, all the while thinking about what he did. Then he would bring it to the Temple, and the Kohain would have a long discussion with him before bringing the sacrifice which was supposed to represent him sacrificing himself. But how could the High Priest wearing some dazzlingly beautiful clothing help us atone for our sins?
Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman of Monsey, NY explains this idea with a beautiful concept. There are two motivators behind a person changing his ways. One is the person realizing just how negative his actions are, and what they have been doing to his life, his social circles, and most importantly his relationship with G-d. The other way is a person realizing just how great he truly is inside, and how great his potential is. This alone can motivate a person to reach higher.
The garments worn by the Kohanim, were external representations of what a person should like on the inside. When a person saw the High Priests golden breastplate with the names of all the Jewish tribes engraved on gemstones, he knew that his heart was really a golden receptacle of love for his fellow Jews. When a person saw the forehead plate of the High Priest with the words, “Holy to G-d” on it, he understood that his brain is supposed to be a supercomputer filled with holy thoughts and intellectual pursuit of G-d. Seeing the extreme modesty incorporated into the vestments, showed one the modest nature of his physical body. Thus the garments were able to motivate people to change by showing them how great they were, and inspiring them to rise up to the greatness they had.
Interestingly, the continuation of last week’s story shows how a great man was able to motivate someone to change by showing him how great he was. We left off last week as our boy had just come back to NY after being on an Indian reservation for years. He circled the Jewish neighborhoods, trying to reconnect, but found himself not connecting with anyone. Then he was told to meet a Rabbi Shlomo Friefeld from a yeshiva called Shor Yoshuv. He went to meet with him, with his dog Chika in the back of the pickup truck. The Rabbi received him warmly and treated him with great respect. He had never felt so esteemed by anyone and promised to return on the morrow.
The next day when he came to the yeshiva there was a bris going on. Rabbi Friefeld called sent someone to bring this ponytailed man in jeans and a T-shirt to the come stand right next to the Rabbi, and by now he was starting to feel like there was some greatness this Rabbi saw in him that he wasn’t even aware of, a greatness worth exploring.
But the act that changed him forever happened a few days later. On one of his visits with the Rabbi Friefeld, the Rabbi was called out of the study for a moment, and this man decided to poke around the office a bit. He noticed with surprise a pile of books on the floor, and knew that the Rabbi would never leave holy books on the floor. Intrigued, he picked up the books, and saw that they were all about Native American culture and life.
He realized that Rabbi Friefeld valued him so much that he had taken out time to try to understand who he was and what made him tick. If the Rabbi saw so much value in him that he went to such lengths to be able to interact with him in a way he could understand, there was clearly some untapped greatness in him. He set about finding it, and today is a great Torah scholar, another person motivated by the greatness Rabbi Friefeld showed him he had.
This week we read from two Torah Scrolls. From the first one we read Parshat Titzaveh, the weekly portion, and from the other one we read Parshat Zachor, a special parsha that is always read the Shabbos before Purim.
Parshat Teztaveh begins with the commandment to bring only the purest olive oil for lighting the menorah. It then continues with the vestments worn by the Kohanim and the Kohain Gadol, the regular priests and the High Priest. Here is the basic breakdown: all priests wore white linen pants, covered by a white linen tunic, wrapped up in a multicolored belt, and a white linen hat (the shape of the High Priest’s hat differed slightly from that of the regular priests.) The Kohain Gadol wore 4 additional vestments; a blue robe, an apron-like garment, a breastplate made of multicolored wool and containing a gold plate with twelve precious stones, and a gold head plate with the words “Holy to G-d” engraved on it. After Ha-shem tells Moshe what the Kohanim will wear, He commands him about the sacrifices and services that will serve as the inauguration of the Msihkan, the Tabernacle.
Quick lesson: Contrary to what many would like to believe, the clothes we wear make a big statement about who we are, as they are the primary way we represent ourselves to the outside world, who don’t know us through any other medium. It is for this reason that the discussion of the inaugural service can come only after the commandments telling the Kohanim how they have to dress during the service. One cannot say on the inside I will serve G-d, but to the outside world I can appear any way I would like. The Torah here tells us that au contraire we must first ensure that the way we portray ourselves is consistent with our ideals, before we go in to serve G-d!
The parsha continues with the description of the Tamid, a twice-daily sacrifice brought in the Mishkan or Beit Hamikdash, and finishes with a depiction of the Incense Altar.
Parshat Zachor is a special portion read once a year on the Shabbos before Purim as part of a Biblical commandment to remember Amalek. The portion we read reminds us of the battle that the Jews waged with the Amalekei nation when we first came out of Egypt. It tells us to never forget Amalek, and to remember that Ha-shems throne will never be complete as long as Amalek survives. The connection to Purim is obvious, as the archenemy Haman of the Purim story is a descendant of Amalek.
Quote of the Week: Only one who sees the invisible can do the impossible. – Frank Gaines
Random Fact of the Week: About 200 million tires are discarded each year in the US.
Funny Line of the Week: Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark.
Have a Smashing Shabbos,
R’ Leiby Burnham