Dear readers! First and foremost, I hope you are healthy, safe, and well. Furthermore, I hope Hashem has given you and your loved ones the ability to shelter indoors as much as possible. I have been following my own advice. My wife and I have been in hibernation for over two and a half weeks now.
Staying indoors is also the advice of Chazal: “Dever b’ir, kanos raglecha – If there is a plague in the city, withdraw your feet” (Bava Kamma 60b). For food, pharmaceuticals and other necessities, utilize delivery services or the help of teenagers who will leave packages outside your door. It takes maturity to safeguard oneself from this invisible enemy.
While employing these precautions, of course pray to Hashem that our hishtadlus be sufficient and that He should keep us safe.
The Talmud says, “Mitzvah bo yoser mi’b’shluchos – It is preferable to do a mitzvah yourself than have others do it for you.” It dawned on me that one of the consequences of the coronavirus is that we are not outsourcing many of the precious mitzvos that we’ve grown accustomed to delegating to others most of our lives.
Many people haven’t kashered their kitchens for Pesach in years; they went away to a hotel. Others stayed home but never really cleaned the house themselves. They brought in a cleaning crew.
Since it’s not safe for youth to be around older people, many in the baby boomer generation are now finding themselves schlepping up pots from the basement, putting on silver foil, and scouring surfaces – jobs they never before did with their own hands. Hashem obviously wants us this year to get more personally involved with Pesach preparations. To grind the maror ourselves and schlep boxes of chametz to where they will be sold to a non-Jew.
Both Rav Chaim Vital and Rabbi Akiva Eiger emphasize the importance of not being sad during a plague. We hear this advice and wonder how it’s possible to follow it. Every day, we learn of reports of choshiveh people and wonderful friends who have tragically succumbed to this terrible disease.
The first thing we must know is that we shouldn’t try to understand why Hashem took these people. The Torah says, “Ki hamishpat l’Eilokim – Judgement belongs to G-d.” We should get out of the judgment business. The Gemara (Masechtas Berachos) tells us that when Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem, “Mipnei mah tzadik v’ra lo – Why does Hashem sometimes do bitter things to righteous people?” Hashem informed Moshe Rabbeinu that it was beyond his scope of comprehension.
If it was beyond Moshe Rabbeinu’s comprehension, it is certainly beyond ours. We do know, though, that the passing of a tzadik, lo alenu, sometimes serves as atonement for many other people. On Purim, for example, when the saintly Daniel was assassinated by Haman, his death atoned for the entire generation.
If we have a home for shelter, and are surrounded by loved ones, and have enough money to pay our bills and provide a simple Pesach for ourselves, we should be happy.
It is easy to be dismayed by not having family eat with us at the Seder or stay with us for Yom Tov. It is natural to feel despondent over the prospect of not being able to go to shul for Yom Tov or hear a Shabbos HaGadol drasha.
But Hashem gave us a different mitzvah to keep at this time: v’nishmartem meod es nafshoseichem – guarding our health exceedingly. This task grows more and more challenging as cabin fever begins to overwhelm many of us. Bear in mind that the harder the mitzvah, the more rewarding it is. Also remember how supreme the mitzvah of protecting our lives is. Saving a life supersedes both Yom Kippur and Shabbos.
Hashem has given many of us another challenge, such as safeguarding our shalom bayis during these trying times. With husband and wife together almost all of the time, there comes many challenges. It is natural to start getting on each other’s nerves, especially with the pressures of Pesach and the children cooped up in the house as well.
The situation can become explosive. Forewarned is forearmed! Hashem is looking to see how the smart husband and wife navigate these turbulent times to come together and readily assist each other. One spouse might need to calm the nerves of the other who is anxious about becoming sick while the other could help prepare for Pesach by doing a task he or she has never done before.
If we have the resources, now is a good time to help our less fortunate relatives, neighbors, and friends who are not working and are fearful about not being able to pay their mortgage, utilities, health insurance, or even food bill.
In the merit of our spiritual perseverance, may Hashem keep us all safe and bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.