The West Nile River Virus

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Just imagine the following scenario.
The peace talks between Barak and Arafat break down. The Oslo agreement goes
up in smoke and Arafat declares a Palestinian State. The Intifada begins anew
but with much greater rage. Terrorism breaks loose with devastating furoy as
Arafat’s fully trained police force and Hamas join forces to chas v’shalom
destroy Israel. Israel sends in its army to quell the riots but is met by a
well trained and well equipped army. As a full scale war is about to break
out, Jordan and Egypt put pressure on Israel to return the West Bank and give
the Arabs full autonomy. A UN resolution sponsored by the U.S. calls for an
arms embargo against Israel unless it accepts UN resolution 456 and returns
all its occupied lands, including Jerusalem to the Arabs. American pressure
comes to bear on Barak, warning him of the dire consequences if Israel fails
to comply. There will be both an economic and a full scale military
embargo. Iran threatens to use its entire hidden arsenals of chemical,
biological, as well as nuclear weapons should Israel not pull back its troops
immediately. When Israel refuses to listen, Iran immediately sends a volley
of Scud missiles toward Israel but they miss their target and land in the
Sinai dessert. Upon close inspection , they are found to be loaded with the
anthrax virus. Panic breaks loose as the Israeli cabinet meets to discuss the
latest crisis. The country seems threatened with civil war as Peace Now and
right wing extremists clash in the streets. As the newspapers report of
Israel’s increasing casualties, many of its citizens call for surrender to
Arafat’s demands. Israel’s government is in disarray and in total chaos as
Barak is left without a majority and his cabinet resigns in protest.
Just then Barak has a very strange dream. An old and saintly man appears to
him and tells him that he has nothing to fear. Under no condition is he to
give in to any of Arafat’s demands. G-d will smite Israel’s enemies and destro
y their mighty armies. They will all turn into naught! In order to prove that
this is not just an ordinary dream but a message from G-d that will surely
happen, he tells Barak to ask him for any heavenly sign he may desire. “Just
ask me to perform any miracle of your choice so that I can prove to you that
this is not just a dream but the word of G-d,” is what he tells him. Barak
refuses to make any requests. He is an atheist and not even a miracle will
get him to believe in G-d. Thereupon, the saintly man looks into Barak’s eyes
and gives him the following message. “While you may not be worthy of a
miracle, G-d is going to make one happen in any case. He will send His
squadron of deadly mosquitoes and killer bees against your enemies. They will
land in their swamps and in the cracks of their rocks and homes. They will
bite them and inject them with a deadly virus for which there will be no
cure. Their king will lose all his body hair and Arafat will lose his beard .
Only then will you know that this was no ordinary dream but actually a
message from G-d!”
As Barak awakens from his dream he is shaken up, not knowing what to make of
it all. At first he dismisses it as a foolish and nonsensical dream. It’s
only when he turns on his TV to listen to the morning news that he begins
having some doubts. The reporter begins by saying that “There has been a
terrible outbreak of something scientists call the West Nile River virus.
Billions of mosquitoes are reported heading toward New York, Iran, Iraq,
Egypt and Jordan. These mosquitoes carry a deadly virus for which there is no
known cure. While the World Health Organization has tried sending up planes
with insecticide to kill these creatures, the spraying has proven to be
worthless since these mosquitoes have developed an immunity to the poison.
Using a more powerful poison would be fatal to humans as well and therefore
cannot be used. It has been reported that the Jordanian king and Saddam
Hussein have been bitten by these mosquitoes and are now undergoing
While the above story sounds too good to be true, but if we read the Novi, we
will find that this story actually did take place. Well, not exactly as I
just told it, but its quite similar indeed!
Just open to the seventh chapter of Yeshayahu and read what’s happening. It
sounds so very similar. For those who may be unfamiliar with the story or
too lazy to look it up, let me give it to you in a nutshell.
The story took place during the reign of the very wicked Jewish King named
Ochaz, who reigned over the two tribes in Yerushalayim. While his father,
Yosam, and his grandfather, Uziyahu, were both great tzaddikim and so was
his son, Chizkiyahu, he was the black sheep in the family. The Gemara in
Mesechta Sanhedrin tells us that he was an extreme leftist who closed every
single yeshivah and shul in the entire country. He knew that the best way to
destroy the Jewish religion was to destroy the Jewish educational system. He
reasoned that if there are no young goats, there will soon be no adult sheep.
And so he sealed shut every elementary, high school and Kollel in the
country. (Perhaps he did so by not giving them any government subsidies or
perhaps he appointed Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni as his Ministers of
Education and Culture.) He also shut down the services in the Bais Hamikdosh
and set up altars to serve idols on every mountain and hill. He even
sacrificed his own sons to the fire god of Molech. Luckily his son Chizkiyahu
was miraculously saved by his mother.
Yet his government now faced a terrible crisis as the neighboring armies of
Arom led by King Ratzin and the powerful army of the Ten Tribes led by King
Pekach the son of Rmalyahu, stood ready to invade and destroy Yerushalayim.
The army of the two tribes was no match for these powerfully trained and well
armed armies. They were outnumbered a thousand to one. The odds were
unbelievable. A look into Divrei Hayomim (28) will provide you with some more
details. A full scale civil war had been raging amongst the Jews. The two
tribes of Binyamin and Yehuda had literally suffered a massacre: 120,000 of
them were killed in only one day of battle by the far superior army of the
Ten Tribes. King Ochaz and his army didn’t stand a chance!
Then Hashem sent his faithful prophet Yeshayahu to go and give Ochaz the
following message, (Note: I am skipping some of the details which I assume
you will look up on your own.) We are told that the king hid by some washing
pond and covered his head in shame with some kind of washing utensil in order
that the Novi not be able to recognize him. (The wicked always seem to try
and cover up their true identities.)
The Novi, of course, recognized him at once despite the crazy mask he wore
and gave him the following prophecy. “So says Hashem. You have absolutely
nothing to fear from the “burnt out sticks” (referring to King Ratzin and
King Pekach.) It will not happen and it will not be!” The Novi clearly told
him that he had nothing to fear, for the enemy’s attacks will be
unsuccessful. And just to prove that his prophecy was a true one, he offered
to give him any heavenly sign that he so desired. He would make the dead
come alive or bring down the prophet Eliyahu or anything Ochaz would demand.
Not a bad offer? Yet the king turned it down. He knew that if the miracle
took place, it would create a real Kiddush Shem Shomayim, something he wanted
absolutely no part of. Even an outright miracle could not get him to do
teshuvah! He was what Chazal call a mumar l’hachis; someone who knows that
there is a G-d, but wants to anger Him.
Yet despite the King’s obstinacy and refusal of a heavenly sign, the Novi
told him that Hashem would send His own army to do battle with them. “G-d
would whistle (signal) to the flies found in the rivers of Egypt (the Nile)
and to the (killer) bees found in the land of Ashur (to Israel’s north), and
they will come to rest in the waters around their homes and in the cracks of
the stones and in all their shrubs and swamps. On that day He will shave off
all the hair of the king across the river, the King of Ashur. This includes
the hair from his head, his legs and even his beard, etc. While Rashi and
others explain it all as a metaphor, one wonders at the similarity to modern
Despite a government that has little liking for the religious, Hashem in His
great mercy miraculously delivers us from our enemy’s hands. While the
miracles were so obvious, some still believe it was “kochi v’otzem yodi. ”
It was our powerful army and air-force that was responsible for this great
When the wicked Titus challenged Hashem’s power, Hashem sent a small fly to
do battle with him. Even the mightiest country in the world stands helpless
against Hashem’s smallest creature, the deadly virus. Malaria spread by
mosquitoes, is responsible for over a million deaths a year. While a virus is
so small that it is barely visible under the world’s best electron
microscopes, it can easily defeat even the world’s mightiest army. Even
nuclear weapons will not work against them. Try destroying them and we may
wind up destroying ourselves as well.
“A person cannot prick his finger down on earth without it being so decreed
up in Heaven” say Chazal.
And as I stand and look around at what’s happening in our day and time, I
think and wonder. History has the very uncanny and eerie ability to repeat
itself. In fact our Chazal tell us that “maase Avos siman l’banim” – the
stories that have happened to our fathers are a telltale sign of what will
happen to their children. And so as I recently read the headlines telling
about mosquitoes spreading something called the West Nile River virus all
across the country, and when I saw a picture of the late Jordanian King
Hussein,whose hair had all fallen out due to the chemotherapy, it really got
me thinking.
Had the Novi uttered these very same words today, it would certainly have
struck terror in people’s hearts. That’s because everyone knows that an army
of mosquitoes and killer bees carrying a deadly virus can easily defeat even
the world’s best equipped modern army.
And so, while today we may also be unworthy, I pray that perhaps once again
Hashem will shower us with His great mercy and give us a repeat performance
as the Novi foretells – “As in the days when I took you out of Egypt I will
again show you great miracles.” Let’s hope we live to witness them in our
day and time!