In a famous segment from one of my favorite movies, “Lawrence of Arabia,” Lawrence is leading a band of fighters in an impossible trek across the Arabian Desert to conquer Aqaba when one of the men goes missing, having slipped off his camel while in a heat-induced stupor. Lawrence decides to go back and retrieve him against the objections of Sherif Ali, who tells him that the missing man must already be dead and any attempt to rescue him is doomed from the start. Then another fighter, referring to the one who is missing, chimes in, “Gasim’s time has come, Lawrence. It is written.” Lawrence answers, “Nothing is written.” Ali, accusing him of blasphemy, warns Lawrence that the mission to take Aqaba will never happen, especially after Lawrence tries to rescue Gasim. To which Lawrence replies, “I shall be at Aqaba. That is written … (pointing to his head) in here!”

On the High Holy Days, Jewish worshippers ask to be written in the Sefer He-Hayyim, the Book of Life. In the U’Netaneh Tokef prayer we recite, “On Rosh Ha-Shanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed. … Who shall live and who shall die …who by fire and who by water … who by earthquake and who by plague.” How many of us will contract COVID-19 and how many of us will be spared? How many of us will suffer financially? When will we ever get out of this pandemic?

And: Do we and should we leave this up to God? We didn’t cause this plague, but we have it in our power to do our utmost to contain it. We can’t wait for God to make it go away. The response is in our hands. The resolve must be written, as Lawrence indicated, in our minds and in our hearts.

Our religious institutions and other community agencies are doing their best to provide vital services to their congregants and clients in a safe and responsible manner. Thanks to Zoom, the internet and the wonders of technology we can ensure that the pandemic won’t shut down communal religious life. We can still worship, study and celebrate together. We can do so while avoiding risky exposure to one another and to COVID. We take this resolve, imprinting it in our minds, while praying for the day when we can safely gather together like before. But until the emergence of effective treatment and a vaccine, we will keep the preservation of lifefront and center.

This dark period will not last forever. Doctors and scientists will help us find a way through. I believe God’s wisdom will drive their persistence and ingenuity. Better days are coming. That is written.

Rabbi Richard Eisenberg is rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Bridgeport.