When you read the title of this column, you are probably going to ask yourself, “What kind of a lesson can we learn from a deadly virus?”
My claim is that even a negative and destructive force can serve as a life lesson for us. The COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives in many ways. Many synagogues and churches are now doing online services, and it’s amazing to see how quickly we adjust to it; as humans, we can easily adopt new ways of life. We are all keeping social distancing, and we try to stay home as much as possible.
We recognize Pikuach Nefesh —the principle in Jewish law (Halacha) that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule. Saving of life is an important tenet of Judaism, and therefore every one of us needs to try to do our best to follow the guidelines of the CDC.
Judaism and Jewish history are all about hope (Tikvah) and optimism. Even Israel’s national anthem is called “The Hope.”
I am fully aware of the coronavirus impact on our lives, our health, our finances, our families, our businesses, and our homes. However, with this darkness that suddenly immersed us, we must look positively and realize a few things:
First and most important, we must know that this situation is a temporary nuisance; it will pass, and in the near future, we will talk about it in past-tense terms. I am not taking it lightly. I know that it is a serious problem for the world with devastating effects on all of us. However, I think that with the resources of our country, and the scientists and doctors who are working around the clock to find a vaccine, and with the social distancing measures that we take, our country will overcome the virus.
Second, I realize these days how many things in our lives we take for granted - like going to movies, to libraries, and to restaurants, or even for a walk in the beautiful parks that we have here in the Myrtle Beach area. All these places that we must avoid now in keeping with social distancing guidelines are activities that we take for granted in normal circumstances.
I think that when we pass this period, we will get a greater sense of appreciation for the simple things in life. The simple pleasures that are now prohibited will be appreciated when it all has passed. In that sense, we need to follow the teachings of the Talmudic sage Ben Zoma, who asked, “Who is wealthy?” and his answer to that question was, “He who rejoices in his portion.”
As it is said in Psalm 128:2, “When you eat the labor of your hands, happy shall you be. And it shall be well with you in this world and the world to come.”
Third, I learned to love and appreciate my community even more than ever before. I talked to many people who offered to help each other and volunteer at this time.
Many of them followed my advice to call other members and friends and keep in touch.
The coronavirus can be damaging to our souls if we will not work with each other. A sense of loneliness and depression can affect us all.
Please keep up the good work; it’s a mitzvah (good deed), and your phone calls may save lives. The mental health of your friends must be priority - one for all of you.
I suggest that you should call at least 10 people every day. Rabbi Hillel said, “Al Tifrush min Hatzibur.” (Do not withdraw from the community.) At this time, we need each other for help and comfort.
Fourth, if you know of any business owner from your local community who is affected by the situation, please support them. I know that it’s easier to order from Amazon or other online shops, but we have to think locally.
And fifth, I learned how important the family is; we all love and care for our families, but at a time like this, we feel a greater need to be together.
We feel that we must prioritize, and when it’s all over, we are going to visit them. We are going to hug them and tell them how much we miss and love them. We are going to make arrangements to see them soon. We learn to appreciate these family moments more than ever before.
So, please start making arrangements for your next family reunions.
May God bless you and your loved ones with a blessing of peace and good health.