As I write these words, I am sitting in my office in the beautiful city of Efrat trying to digest what is happening in our city, as well as the entire world. The streets are empty. There are no schools in sessions; even pre-schools are closed. The daily minyanim have been curtailed to such a degree that only minyanim of ten people are permitted. And the davening has been truncated: a short loud Shmoneh Esreh is recited and no one is permitted to be less than a distance of two meters from his/her neighbor. People may not shake hands with their fellow parishioners.
Weddings and smachot have been limited to only ten people. Rav Shlomo Riskin, the mara d’asra of the city of Efrat, has announced that people older than a certain age, who are in greater danger of catching this virus, should stay in their homes and daven there. Rabbi Riskin himself has placed himself in voluntary isolation in his home.
The country seems to be at a total standstill. Literally all businesses of leisure, including gyms and pools, movie theatres and the like, are closed indefinitely. Only providers of basic services – such as medical and food – are permitted to be open. The country is 65% closed and people are profoundly worried and concerned.
However there are certain lessons that we could derive from the unfolding of these events that are at once sobering as well as inspirational.
First, we should realize and marvel at the greatness of Almighty G-d. Before this emergency we all felt so complacent and secure. Life continued almost automatically. Suddenly we are faced with a simple microscopic virus and our entire world has been turned upside down. We feel so fragile and minute, as the entire world is sent into literally a total state of panic and frenzy.
To me, this beckons the notion of the greatness of our Creator and the insignificance of the human being. We are not in control of our destiny; only Hashem controls the world.
There is something else amidst this confusion, however, that is very inspiring to me.
Before the Jewish people left Egypt, the night of Makat Bechorot, G-d instructed the Jewish people to gather in their homes and there to have the first recorded Seder. At a time of death and confusion, G-d directed us to focus on our family and assemble in our homes; to literally separate from the everyday commingling and realize that the center and the crucial aspect of our existence as Jews is our family.
Additionally, before G-d gave us the Torah He said:
“Ko tomar le’beit Yaakov – Thus you should say to the house of Jacob.”
Before G-d was prepared to bestow upon the Jewish people His greatest gift, the Torah, He wanted to be sure that the most crucial aspect that would insure the continuity of the Jewish people – the family – was intact. The focus of the Jewish people when receiving of the Torah was the bayit the home; for without the home we could not survive as a nation.
As we approach the holiday of Pesach, with the background of the frightening Coronavirus, we are forced to spotlight on our homes; our families. As the Jews living in Egypt were commanded to be with their families before the final plague of the killing of the firstborn and the great exodus from Egypt, we today, as a result of this pandemic, are forced as well to focus on our homes and families.
Before the great exodus from Egypt the family was crucial as a means towards Jewish independence.
As we await the coming of Moshiach, today we are once again reminded by G-d during this frightening time that the key to our redemption will be our interactions and relationship with our family.
May that time come speedily. Amen.