Unfortunately, in the last two weeks, Covid-19 hospitalizations have increased 16 percent across the nation, and the virus is still wreaking havoc across the world, leading London and much of Italy to go into another lockdown. Yet, in our communities, many act cavalierly with regards to the three “w”s: washing hands, wearing masks, and watching one’s distance.
Recently, I had an epiphany on this subject. Imagine if you had a fruit fly infestation. You would do whatever you could to get rid of the insects. And if after sterilizing your counters and scrubbing and spraying, the infestation returned, you would clean all over again.
In thinking about this analogy, it dawned on me that if we saw the coronavirus microbe, we would have an altogether different attitude towards it. We would be wearing helmets and hunkering down to dodge the deadly thing.
But since we can’t see it, Covid-19 fatigue has caused us to want to believe that it’s not a problem anymore, notwithstanding the fact that all of us know people are still being hospitalized and even dying.
The ability to be acutely aware of the existence of something we can’t see is actually a very big part of Yiddishkeit. One’s quality of davening hinges upon one being able to envision that one is standing in front of Hashem. One’s yiras shamayim – the inhibition that comes from knowing that Hashem is always watching – also hinges upon one’s ability to be aware of what one cannot see. And the ability to prioritize one’s activities with the aim of acquiring Olam Habah is based on desiring a world we’ve never seen.
A closely related skill lies in Chazal’s axiom: “Eizehu chacham? Haro’eh es hanolad – Who is wise? One who has foresight.” Practicing the three “w”s certainly saves lives, but you have to have the smarts, the foresight to act on this knowledge.
Masks are bothersome; they’re uncomfortable and they chafe. They make you feel out of breath and might make you nauseous, but if there’s even a chance they can save someone’s life, it’s a no-brainer. We of course also make a Kiddush Hashem when we wear a mask, thus acting like the am segulah, the treasured nation that is supposed to be an example for all other nations.
In the merit of thinking about others and taking, not the easy route but the right route, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.