And it's a strange time in which not only are our services cancelled but if you search anywhere in the world, law abiding and halacha following Jews are not gathering for a minyan. No Kaddish, no kedusha. Is this the will of G-d? Well, yes, if the rabbis decided and the government decided that life takes precedence over communal worship, then yes, this is the will of G-d.
They tell a story of Rav Elimelech and Rav Zusha in a jail cell. Rav Zusha tried to daven mincha. Rav Elimelech said, You can't daven here! Look at that foul-smelling pail over there! So Rav Zusha was sad. R. Elimelech said, Don't be sad. This is the will of G-d, not to daven in a place like this! To this Rav Zusha said, If it is the will of G-d not to daven then let us rejoice for we are doing the will of G-d! So they danced. The guard was irked. Why are the Jews dancing? Someone told them it had something to do with the foul smelling pail. So the guard, to frustrate the Jews, removed the pail. At that point they davened mincha!
If it is the will of G-d at this time not to gather in our shuls throughout the Jewish world, then perhaps we too may dance at the chance to fulfill G-d's will not to go to shul. But we still have to ask, Why would G-d have it that we don't daven in our shuls?
Before we even attempt to answer that question, let's look at one word in the bracha of the Haggadah on Pesach night. There is a bracha on the redemption which we say at the end of maggid. In it we say that just as we merited to eat matza and maror on this night, so may G-d bring us to other years in which we will go up to Jerusalem together and we will eat the Paschal lamb there which will be "le'ratzon" it will be desired by you. We want the Paschal lamb, the korban Pesach, to be "desired."
Rav Herschel Schachter explains that Rabbi Yechiel of Paris thought that we could offer the Paschal lamb today because the whole reason we don't offer sacrifices is that G-d has refused to "smell", to accept our sweet savory offerings. But the Paschal lamb is the only sacrifice, says the Netziv, which is not referred to as a sweet savory offering to G-d. So even if the sacrifices are at this time not accepted by G-d, the Paschal lamb is welcome, even if it is not sweet and savory. But in our prayer we say, No, in the future we want our Paschal lamb to be not just permissible but favored by G-d. We want G-d to "desire" our sacrifices.
Now, I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, and I surely can't tell you why it is the divine will that we cancel every minyan on earth for now. But I can assert this very tentatively; If G-d loved our shuls a lot more, maybe he wouldn't allow a plague to afflict us which would make us all cancel our services, our minyanim. Maybe there is something about our service that is not so sweet in the eyes of G-d.
I was taught that when bad things happen we never point fingers at others. But each of us can look at ourselves and ask what wasn't sweet enough about our shul and our minyan that it was cancelled? Maybe my sermons need to inspire more. Maybe I need to focus more on my prayers. Maybe we need to think more about those who sit in our pews and what we can do to make their lives better.
We don't know why this Corona virus is affecting the whole world. What we can do, no matter what, is to try to ensure that our worship of G-d is more pleasing so that next year, our Paschal lamb will be offered in the most pleasing way it can be. And if it pleases G-d, he will find a way for us to join, yes, without social distancing, shoulder to shoulder with every Jew in the world and people of good faith from all over the world to worship G-d in Jerusalem in a way that finds favor in the eyes of G-d.
We wish everyone that you make the best of Pesach during these difficult times, and that next year, it will be G-d's will that we celebrate in Jerusalem.