In the midst of the corona virus pandemic I did something most people would consider reckless or even stupid—I drove to New York City, the epi-center of the U.S. outbreak, with my son who lives there. And so now that I am here, I wanted to share a few thoughts with my readers.
First, I hope you are all safe and well. This thing is real and we all need to be careful—wash our hands a lot, use hand sanitizer, self-quarantine, keep away from our faces, scrub surfaces, wear latex gloves, maintain social distance—we all know the drill. No one wants to get sick and die. Me neither. And so I am doing everything I can to stay healthy and safe. You should as well.
There is an enormous amount of palpable fear in our world today. We are fighting a little known virus which seemingly sprung out of nowhere that has the potential to kill us. Fear is both a natural and healthy response to danger. It ignites our animal “fight or flight” mechanism. We need to do both right now—flight to our homes and fight the virus. But there is also crippling fear that leads to panic and paralysis. We are witnessing that as well, heightened, perhaps, by the isolation enforced upon us. That kind of fear is dangerous, perhaps even more than the virus itself. After all, though our fear can make it seem that way, we are not the first generation to experience a life-altering epidemic/pandemic. There have been worse calamities in world history. And as bad as this is, you can be assured, the world will not come to an end with this virus. Already immune therapies and vaccinations are in the works. Our bodies will adapt as it has to other viruses. This, too, shall pass.
For those of us in the American Jewish community, the heightened threat of the virus has fallen between the holidays of Purim and Passover. While these are vastly different celebrations they do hold one major theme in common: our people were facing certain annihilation in hostile environments and yet, led by heroes like Esther, Mordechai, and Moses, we survived. In fact, we became stronger and more unified as a result. I see that all around me, as well. Untold and unsung heroes are everywhere extending themselves to help their friends, family, and neighbors as well as strangers get through this crisis. As always, we have more that unites us than divides us.
I took a walk on Shabbat to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Everywhere there were daffodils, tulips, and crocuses popping through the earth with their happy colors. After a winter of cold and darkness, they have come to remind us that there will be light once again. Spring is in the air. Life returns. It is inevitable. A virus thrives in the dark; but we humans are creatures of the light. We might be alone right now but there is no need to be lonely. You can still say “hello, hope you are safe and well” from six feet apart.
At moments like these, I am reminded of the following prayer verse that helps me keep perspective. I like to repeat it during the course of my day, almost mantra like. Perhaps it can help sustain you as well.
B’yado afkeed roo-chee; b’ate ee-shan v’lo ee-rah
Into Your hand I entrust my spirit; in this time of great uncertainty, I will not be afraid.
P.S. I hope what I am about to say is not misconstrued as being cavalier or insensitive to those of our loved ones who are truly suffering with Covid19. Even in a disaster we have the opportunity to see positive elements and I am noticing them as well. People are slowing down, connecting with friends and family, not working as hard, spending lots of time with their children. There is less pollution in the air, people are taking walks or riding their bicycles. Mother Earth is speaking to us and we are taking time to listen. Hopefully, these benefits will not be lost on us when all of this is just a memory. And maybe, just maybe we will come to understand that Covid19 was not the enemy, but a reminder of the fragility of our world as well as each and every one of us. Take care everybody!