As much as I would like to steer clear from the topic of this crazy coronavirus, it’s almost impossible. The entire country of Israel is shut down. Some people are still working, but many others are now unemployed – just like that. The frustration level is high.
Everyone is trying to get ready for the holidays amidst news updates regarding the virus and restrictions for the public to obey – every hour on the hour. Tension fills the air wherever you turn.
When thinking of the holidays in the month of Tishrei, one is filled with spiritual thoughts of growth and repentance, new commitments, and starting a new year with a clean page full of optimism and faith.
However, what has been going on here for almost three weeks is not exactly that. There are police blockades all over. It feels like we’re living in a different time zone, in a different country, where avoiding the police is a must. People have all sorts of excuses why they are up and about, and most of the blockades just create tremendous traffic, with no questions asked at the end of the line.
The tension before Rosh Hashanah was great. What will be? Will the synagogues stay open? Will we be able to hear the shofar being blown?
And then came Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. People who never go to shul all year always come to pray on Yom Kippur. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world. The entire country stops and goes to shul – everyone in white, just like angles.
But this year, although the streets were closed as they are every year, the feeling was different. Thoughts filled the air with: What will be with the virus? When will the roads be open again? What decree was sealed in heaven this year for the nation?
And now the holiday of Sukkot which is always so happy and beautiful; now people are escaping their homes for small intervals of time to buy last-minute items since the shutdown is even stricter now than it was at the beginning of the month. What we’re experiencing is definitely not the usual happy and exhilarating feeling that fills the streets days before the happiest holiday of the year.
So where is our faith? Where is our positive way of thinking? Where is Hashem in all this madness?
When we give someone advice about a situation that isn’t affecting us at that moment, we have so many positive and spiritual messages and smart ideas to offer. But when it comes to our plate, our home, our troubles, the clear, paved, straight path seems quite narrow, unclear, and very difficult to navigate.
This year more than ever, though, we need clarity and faith despite what is going on around us. We will all build sukkot and shake lulav and etrog, but what we need this year most of all is to take the tense feelings accompanying our holiday preparations and turn them into prayers of strength and happiness for the entire nation.
The Jews are a light onto the nations of the world. The Torah that the Jewish people learn keeps the entire world alive. So too Israel is a light unto all the other countries of the world. What happens here has an effect on the rest of the world. This is the home of Hashem and from Israel good is spread to every other country.
So all the efforts we make preparing for the holidays despite all the tension and difficulties around us will spread goodness to everyone. Our energy and strength will pass to the rest of the world. Each Jew here in Israel is responsible for the welfare of his fellow Jew, not only in Israel, but all over the world. Therefore, the stronger and happier we are here in getting ready for the holiday and overcoming all obstacles that come our way, the more our brothers and sisters all over the world will be strengthened.
May we feel the happiness that Sukkot brings each and every year – especially this year.