Just recently, New York Governor Mario Cuomo extended the closure period in New York for another 30 days and mandated that everyone wear masks outside. These steps are a good warning for those who think they can lower their guards. Students of history know that we shouldn’t be careless just because deaths are decreasing. The numbers may be lower (due to prudent mitigation efforts), but the disease sadly is still in the air.
During the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, people had such intense cabin fever after months of quarantine that when it was reported that World War I was truly over, thousands threw caution to the wind and streamed into the streets to celebrate. The consequences were horrific. So, we must continue to be very cautious.
Having said that, it is unquestionably growing more challenging to be quarantined week after week with no clear light at the end of the tunnel. I would like to make a suggestion to you, my dear readers. I recommend that you and your spouse sit down together and create a “Corona Era Diary” – a detailed log of how your life has been during these historic times.
This diary will serve a dual purpose. First, 10 years from now, your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be fascinated to see a record of how you lived during this very unusual period. They’ll be astounded at how different things were during this time of crisis. Second, and more importantly, you’ll become more aware of how you’re spending your time and will, as a result, use each moment more purposefully.
I started keeping such a diary recently and found doing so truly fascinating. Here are some recollections based on my entries: On Purim, we already decided not to deliver any homemade mishloach manos. After Purim, with reports of New Rochelle being attacked by the virus, we initiated social-distancing in the Agudah of Staten Island. A few days later, we closed our shul and then, a couple of days after that outside minyanim were shut down.
I shifted my Daf Yomi shiur to Zoom, Facebook, TorahAnytime, and Kol HaLoshon. (The Daf Yomi is now nightly at 7:45 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and Motzei Shabbos at 9:30 p.m. For the Zoom ID, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.) Families and individuals authorized me to sell chametz by fax, e-mail, and phone.
The sale of the chametz to the non-Jew was done with me on my upstairs balcony porch and the non-Jew downstairs in the front yard. We made the six kinyanim with a basket and a gartel. Three people, from a safe distance away, witnessed the sale and heard me be mafkir the chametz afterwards in front of a beis din. The next day, I destroyed my 10 pieces of chametz by flushing them down the toilet.
At the seder, my dear wife asked me the Mah Nishtana. The next day, as we didn’t hear the Mussaf of Tal, we stopped saying Mashiv Haruach at Minchah.
For the first time in the history of advertising, there was not one newspaper ad for Chol HaMoed entertainment. Our daughter Yocheved made a bris, baruch Hashem, but we weren’t able to attend. My new daughter Devorah Schwartz had a baby last Shabbos, but we won’t be able to make it to the bris.
All throughout this scary time, we keep getting daily messages from different shul services saying, “We regret to inform you of the passing of…” It’s reminiscent of the daily death notices during the Vietnam War era. The shiva calls keep on piling up, may Hashem spare us from any more of this.
Next week, I hope to offer some tips on making better use of all of the time many of us find on our hands. In the meantime, please be safe, make an extra effort to be kind to your loved ones, study Torah, give tzedaka, and pray hard. In the merit of doing these mitzvos, may Hashem bless us all with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.