Rabbi Shmuel Field

The coronavirus is on everyone’s mind, all over the media and has disrupted our entire way of daily life. We cannot leave our homes, and if we do, the streets are flowing with sanitizer and soap suds.

Where exactly has all the toilet paper gone? Eggs, milk, and canned food has taken the place of Apple’s newest model iPhone and sold out concert tickets. The constant rise of the stock market has traded places with the recent unprecedented rise in unemployment.

I have heard dozens of different ideas and lessons relating to the virus. The Hebrew numerical value of the word “corona” is equivalent to “Messiah comes” and the translation is “call out” telling us to beseech the Almighty. It’s a time of uncertainty, so be comfortable with a life that is no longer predictable. Since we don’t treat one another kindly, we are home and secluded from others. Covid is pronounced Kavod, a word with tremendous moral significance in our world. The list goes on.

It seems that this illness has left room for the interpretation of any thought one may desire to convey. The virus itself has baffled the medical world as well. While we try to make sense of all that’s transpired over the past month, let’s consider the real truths. We are home, alone or with our immediate families, and for most of us life has changed drastically. Our daily schedules are out of sync, and we have some serious doubts about the future. Those are some of the facts.

Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, also known as the Ba’al Shemtov, was a great sage born in the late 1600s. In his teachings, he writes, “All that we see happening around us is a snippet of what’s being shown to us by the Almighty about ourselves.”

He also says “Your fellow is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering — you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.”

The holy sage is teaching us that not only do we see a mirror of ourselves in others, but this reflection also translates to our perception of the world around us. Therefore, we can change what’s happening around us by influencing how we see the world and the people in it. The questions we need to ask are, “What do I need to start doing differently?” and “How can I influence my world and make it a better place?”

We’ve been given a starting point. Stay home and work on our most intimate world: us and the people we live with.

Maybe the message of this pandemic is whatever we make of it. If we fear the uncertainty and live with anxiety, then we must work on our faith. The Almighty has everything calculated including the amount of time in our lives. Not one moment can be taken away from us if it wasn’t preordained. If it’s seclusion that makes us uncomfortable, then we must learn to appreciate ourselves.

In the words of the Rebbe from Kotzk, “If I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.”

Whatever the message, we have a unique opportunity to influence real change and come out differently than we came in. G-d willing, there will be a cure tomorrow. When life restarts, how will we have influenced change in our lives? JN

Rabbi Shmuel Field is the head of school for Torah Day School of Phoenix.

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