My dear readers! Extraordinary times give us extraordinary opportunities. The Gemara teaches us that four types of people are considered dead. One of them is a metzorah, the biblical leper. Why is he considered dead? Because he has to be in strict isolation. The Gemara teaches us, “Oh chavrusah oh misusah – Either social interaction or death!”
With so many people under lockdown, many are experiencing a death-like feeling. This feeling is exacerbated if the person is a widow, divorcee, or older single who lives alone. We should each make a list of people we know who may be feeling extremely lonely and make it our business to regularly call them to see how they’re doing. Offer them companionship over the phone or, if they are more sophisticated, through Facetime, Zoom, or Skype.
This past Shabbos, we bentched Rosh Chodesh Nissan, which means Pesach is right around the corner. This yom tov increases the stress level in many homes during the best of times. This year, we find ourselves in uncharted territory, which can cause unimagined new stresses. Many people have never made Pesach before and don’t even have Pesach utensils. Others rely heavily on cleaning help but are afraid to allow them into their homes.
Many women – upon whom this Pesach burden mainly falls – are beside themselves. Add this to the already mounting stress of cabin fever and having spouses and children on top of each other around the clock and it can easily lead to volcanic explosions.
Here are a few suggestions: Pesach cleaning has to be limited to the bare essentials. No spring cleaning at this time! No moving furniture, no straightening out the garage, no getting rid of the junk in the basement. There’s no manpower or time for these non-Pesach expenditures. Spring cleaning has been effectively canceled this year.
As of now, it is not safe for grandchildren and children to be near their elders, so elaborate cooking should be trimmed down. It is certainly not the time to buy the latest Pesach cookbook. Energies should rather be put into doing the minimum and being warm, loving, and pleasant to those we are stuck inside with. Our ancestors managed with matzah, potatoes, eggs, chicken, meat (if even), and not much more.
Certainly, if you have discretionary time and cleaning out a room will cheer you up, or making a new Pesach desert will brighten your day, go for it! But, we need to ensure that we keep our mental equilibrium and not let the yetzer hara convince us that we should be stressed out because of non-essentials. The rav will sell all of our chametz, so if children are not coming, tape up entire rooms, garages, and basements and let the rav sell their contents to the non-Jew.
Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, notes that the one sin that brings about the punishment of isolation is lashon hara. It thus goes without saying that we must reevaluate how we talk about people. One of the singers of the Yedidim Choir pointed that in today’s day and age, with one click of a button on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp, the whole world can be exposed to lashon hara. Perhaps that’s why the whole world is under lockdown.
Even in the midst of this turmoil, people were criticizing each other for going to shul or not going to shul, for learning in yeshiva or not. (As an aside, this writer humbly believes that everyone who can should err on the side of caution and stay safely indoors.)
Covid-19 is so frightening because it impedes breathing. Not being able to breathe was the fate of the 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva who died from askara, a disease that caused skin to grow over the esophagus, which impeded breathing. They died, says the Gemara, because they didn’t show honor to one another.
Now is not the time to be talking disparagingly about Torah leaders, roshei yeshiva, and rabbanim. Now is the time to hunker down in our homes, help with the kids, help make Pesach, daven with more intensity, say more Tehillim, give tzedakah online, check on the welfare of our parents, grandparents, and in-laws, and learn extra Torah.
In the merit of doing these mitzvos, may Hashem grant us a cure to dispel this disease and bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.