I am writing this on March 22, 2020, and when this column gets printed sometime in April, life may or may not be back to our individual normal – the key word being life.
My first thought when I heard that Israel had been ordered to lockdown, was that this year, there would be people celebrating their Seder, who are alive because they weren’t killed in traffic accidents on Israel’s streets and highways.
According to the Jerusalem Post, there were 17 fatalities in the month of November 2018 on Highway 90, dubbed, “the road of death.” I’m not even mentioning the survivors of the numerous crashes who suffer life-altering injuries. Sometimes we don’t see Hashem’s chesed over a tragedy that didn’t happen.
Many parents are pulling their hair out dealing with bored children or are feeling overwhelmed by on-line schooling. Many kids are upset because they can’t have play dates or visit grandparents or cousins.
I think of Anne Frank, who was holed up in a tiny apartment, with curtains blocking out the light, living in terror of being discovered by the Nazis. She and her sister and parents, and a few others shared cramped quarters in silence. They didn’t even flush the toilet until the warehouse workers had left for the day. Only then could they go out of their hiding place. There was no Internet, or social media or online games or e-books, to alleviate the monotony. No playing in the yard or sitting under a tree in a garden scented by blooming flowers with a sweet breeze caressing your face.
This “normal” for the Frank family went on for two years, until ultimately they were betrayed and deported to Auschwitz. Anne’s father was the only survivor.
Children living in North America have never really been challenged in any significant way, (except for children with acute or chronic illness or disability). Perhaps they will learn to be resilient and develop adapting skills that will serve them well. Perhaps they will emerge from this unique situation more mature because instant gratification and no barriers to their partying are not on the table any more.
Many men and women are no longer working because businesses and offices are closing and are financially hurting. Perhaps there is a silver lining in that. Spending in our communities for unnecessary luxuries is getting out of hand. Kids don’t need designer backpacks that cost hundred of dollars, or a dozen pairs of expensive Shabbat/Yom Tov shoes to match their many new outfits. Or high tech gadgets and electronics. Sometimes less is more because the stress of obtaining more takes a bitter physical or emotional toll on family life.
I go walking in a huge park where there is plenty of room to avoid getting close to people and lately I see fathers shooting baskets with their sons and daughters in their driveway and I know that weeks ago, these parents would be at work. The outcome of forced confinement within the family is likely enhancing parental bonds and sibling relationships.
Of course there is very likely a huge increase in bickering and fighting amongst brothers and sisters who are now each other’s eye-rolling playmates, but at the end of the day, they will learn to compromise, negotiate, accommodate and tolerate, good lessons in future spousal and work relationships.
And the kids will become creative and inventive and innovative. One teenage sibling I know, with a talent for sewing, is teaching her younger siblings how to use a sewing machine, including the boys. Another sister is letting every one watch her bake from scratch. Down the road it will look great on a young man’s shidduch resume – he sew buttons, hem pants and bake amazing banana muffins!
And then there is Pesach cleaning. With many international and domestic Pesach programs shut down, or vulnerable grandparents unable to host, families are rolling up their sleeves and making Pesach themselves. For many, this will be a real eye opener as to the immense and often arduous preparations needed to do so. It is a great chinuch opportunity.
Many couples had their wedding plans undermined by government rulings limiting the number of people that can gather together. I am sure many brides are devastated by not having the chassanah of their dreams, replete with hundreds of guests, and a blizzard of flowers, dancing and entertaining shtick. But we all know of couples who fast-forwarded weddings in hospital rooms so a critically ill parent would see nachas before they couldn’t.
Many grandparents of the young couples who survived the Shoah had weddings in DP camps with one bride passing her dress to another while a chossen passed his ill fitting jacket to the next one. Perhaps there was some cake and a bottle of wine. They had no parents, and often no siblings to share in their bittersweet simcha.
There will be other simchas and a young couple can put the money saved to rent, or self pay for an extra year of learning, or reduce school debt, or it can be donated to help other couples have a modest wedding.
Down the road, the young couple can have a post-virus reception with the guests and shtick they missed out on.
There is so much to be grateful for and perhaps this difficult reality is a wake up call for us to be appreciative and b’simcha in the future. May everyone who needs it be zoche a complete and quick refuah. May those who suffered a great loss have nechama.