Covid-19 Reflections

Leonie Best (She’arim student)

There are people in the world who enjoy relaxation; sitting at home with a coffee and a magazine, looking through their window and taking it easy for a few days. I am not one of those people. So when the virus started spreading, I told my husband that I was more afraid of quarantine than of the virus itself.

But because G-d runs the world, and He gives us our unique tests to work on ourselves, I ended up in quarantine soon enough. Once in quarantine, I discovered that taking some time to stop and think is actually nice. Here I will try to share some of the thoughts I had about the Corona Virus during my quarantine.

The power of the human mind doesn't cease to surprise me. I have encountered people who are very anxious and people who are calm, and actually, taking the whole situation with a little bit of humour. The truth is that we are all in the same boat. The disease is spreading across the world and we are all following very strict regulations.  The difference is in the way we approach it.

I have spoken with people who are worrying about the “what ifs”, who are looking at the news far more times than necessary, who are putting excess energy into planning for all possible scenarios, and who are being consumed by their nerves and fears. However, I was pleased to notice that most people I have been talking to are taking much better approaches. I’ve heard sentiments of “we are not in control”, and “there is a bigger plan going on here”, and “what does G-d wants us to learn from this situations”, and “how can I help someone without putting myself at risk”, and so on.

Are they worried?  Of course, we are all concerned to a degree. But with this approach we manage to keep calmer, and add meaning to the situation. This meaning gives us a sense of peace and happiness. It makes an enormous difference in our emotional state, and in the way we interact with those around us (of course not any closer than 6 feet). I realized this my first day in quarantine. I was having a coffee, looking at the window and said “Thank you Hashem for making it into a sunny day that is nice to look at”. Right after that thought crossed my head, I asked myself: Am I just being naive? Had it been a rainy day, I would said “Thank you for making it into a day that way I don't want to go out.” After thinking about it, I decided it wasn't naivety, it was positivity. Both statements are true, and we get to choose in what aspect of any given situation we want to focus on.

My biggest take away, is the tremendous feeling of pride I have, of being part of the Jewish nation. Even in pressing circumstances, we don't cease to take care of each other. I have had people offer to deliver me books and food. People are hosting weddings in their house last minute, people are going and extra mile in making the bride and groom happy.  I saw how seminaries had to close down, and they made sure that every student in their dorm had a flight and a place to go. I have seen yeshivas and seminaries, including She’arim, who decided to put the extra effort into not closing down completely. They kept their international students in their dorms, and had a full day of online classes. It wasn’t because it was the easiest, it was because Jews are always looking out of what is best for other Jews.

 I saw myself how within a few hours of the lock down being announced, all of the students who could not go to their host for shabbat had all of their food prepared by members of the community.  Emails going out inviting us to say tehillim together, to put an extra effort into not speaking loshon hara, and so much more. Coronavirus is in a way bring out the best of our people.

That brings me to the next point. We cannot know why G-d brought this plague upon the world. But we can always think about what we learn and how we can improve through a situation.  We live in a world of planning and being in control. Maybe this is a wake up call for us to realize that we are not in control, that we don't need to plan every detail of our lives for the next 20 years. We have it be responsible and we also have to trust and rely on our Creator. I realized that I need to work on, not just having the knowledge of an existing G-d but on learning how to allow him into my life and in letting him have a part in it.

The Gemara in Erachin list multiple behaviors for which a person would get quarantined for either 7 or 14 days. They are all bein adam l´chaveiro mitzvah. The most famous of them is loshon hara, but there are others as murder, which includes humiliating, and arrogance, among others,  that would get quarantine as well. I like to focus on connection of quarantine to these commandments and the quarantine for Corona as a calling to work on they way we treat others. And because we have to stay at home, specifically the way we treat those closer to us. As a result of Corona, we can’t be close to people, shake hands, hug, or have meals together. Maybe we should learn to value these acts in a deeper way, once we can return to these practices.

And last, I learned that many things are not as urgent as I feel they are. All of a sudden ,errands can wait some more days. We can miss work once in a while. We don't have to go to as many activities. Maybe I don't have to be in an urgent rush all the time.  Who knows, maybe even relaxing is permitted without Corona!.

 I heard in a class today that we don't know when Moshiach is coming but this Coronavirus  is teaching us that it is possible to adapt to a different way of living, and therefore, be more prepared to adapt to a new way of living when he comes. So whenever he comes, we are ready to receive him and the new world that he will bring.

Quarantine is not fun. The world is different from what we were used to. And we don't know for how long. I do know that I have the power to stay positive and happy, to learn from the situation, to become a better person, to have a more real connection to G-d, and to reevaluate my values and priorities. I will continue to be proud of this nation, that always manages to stay together, even when we are not allowed to physically. And who knows, maybe I will look back one day at the Corona times and realice  that it formed and straightened me as a person in many ways.

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