Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
This week I went to the Kotel (Western Wall) and saw masses of people who had come to pray together after a year of limited Kotel access due to the coronavirus. Suddenly I had this thought: more than 800,000 Israelis who were stricken by the corona have now recovered. Don't they need to recite the HaGomel prayer of thanks for surviving a life-threatening illness? Why not organize a mass thanksgiving prayer at the Kotel for all those who recovered? And perhaps it would even be worthwhile to broadcast it internationally for everyone everywhere who recovered, especially those who are longing to be in Israel but cannot get here? I suggested this idea to The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and, apparently, it will soon be implemented.
The idea of expressing gratitude following a crisis appears in this week's Torah portion that speaks about the thanksgiving sacrifice. This is a sacrifice given by someone who returns from a long journey, is freed from prison, or recovers from a serious illness. Today, the HaGomel prayer is a substitute for the thanksgiving sacrifice brought when the Holy Temple stood. The intent of the prayer is to teach us to give thanks for surviving potentially life-threatening situations. If more than 3 million people on earth died from the coronavirus and you recovered - say "thank You." If you heard the news about what is happening in India (where a new corona wave brought 350,000 new cases yesterday along with 2,800 deaths), even while you can freely walk into a coffee shop in Israel, say "thank You." This is what Rabbi Nachman of Breslav wrote about giving thanks: "Today, when there is no thanksgiving sacrifice, a person needs to verbally thank God with all his heart, with great joy and fervor. In the future (when the Holy Temple is rebuilt), all of the sacrifices will be abolished since they are meant to atone for sins - except for the thanksgiving sacrifice which will remain. This will be a sign that everything has been transformed into goodness and a reminder that although each person suffered what he suffered, all past sadness and sighing have now been turned into gladness and joy."