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I Finally Joined the COVID Club!

I Finally Joined the COVID Club!

It’s been six months since COVID-19 was unleashed and our lives became instantly unrecognizable. Like everyone else, I did everything in my power to avoid the virus, but alas, when G-d decrees it’s your turn, nothing helps. And I guess G-d finally decided it was my time.

It was toward the end of summer that I started feeling weak. First a headache and a fever, and I didn’t think much of it. It was only when I performed the havdalah service for my family after Shabbat that I realized it might be COVID. I made the blessings over the fragrant spices as I do every week (we smell the spices to comfort the soul which is saddened by the departure of the “extra soul” it receives for the duration of Shabbat), but when I tried to smell them, nothing registered.

At first I thought there was something wrong with the spices, but when I saw my wife and children smelling them as usual, I realized I must actually have COVID.

I ended up extremely weak for 10 days, mostly in bed, with fever, chills, headache, stomach ache, general loss of appetite and noticeable weakness. Although I didn’t lose my sense of taste, many of the foods I previously enjoyed suddenly tasted terrible to me. I couldn’t stand to drink my morning coffee which I usually love. Same with my breakfast yogurt and other favorites. I had to stick to bland foods like toast and dry pretzels to get through.

I quarantined for the full time required and miraculously no one else in my family caught it. Thank G-d, I had a relatively mild case and recovered quickly. I tested negative and was able to come out and rejoin the world before the summer was even over.

But I couldn’t stop thinking that there must be a lesson here that can help us with our Divine service.

Most of us take the small things in life for granted, things like taste and smell. Every morning I drink my coffee, enjoy it greatly, but that’s it. I don’t think much about it, I don’t feel particularly awed or overly grateful. I move on with my day.

G-d gives us these small gifts on a daily basis, and we can easily fall into the trap of taking them for granted. Waking up each morning is a gift from G-d. Every breath of air we breathe is a gift. There are blessings we recite each morning, acknowledging and thanking G-d for opening our eyes, for waking us, for enabling us to go to the bathroom, for giving us strength… if we really pay attention to what we are saying each day, we will become accustomed to thanking Him for even the tiniest things.

The Hebrew acronym for the upcoming year of 5781, which we have just begun, is "פלאות אראנו" which means "I will show you miracles!" May G-d shower us all with revealed and recognizable miracles, and may the new year bring tremendous blessing upon all of us, most urgently an end to the terrible coronavirus. I’m already feeling the positive energy of the new year; I’m certain that very soon we’ll see those miracles!

G’mar Chatima Tova!

Rabbi Uriel Vigler 

 

It's a War Zone!

Like millions of children across the world, mine started school this week. Finally, after almost half a year at home, the day we’ve all been waiting for arrived! I love Zoom, but we all know it’s just not the same as in-person communication. 

My kids go to four different schools, and each has its own policy and plan to protect the children. Across the board, parents are super anxious. Some schools are requiring negative COVID tests before the children begin. Each day they’ll have their temperature taken; some schools even have thermal cameras that can check up to 100 kids’ temperatures at once! 

There’s a full time nurse on site, high-tech filters to clean the air of micro-bacteria particles, and endless amounts of Purell and Lysol wipes. The kids have to wear masks in the hallways and anytime they’re not sitting at their desks. When seated, they are boxed in by plexiglass. Lunch is served individually in the classroom and there is no more group play at recess or in the gym. Some schools even have the children wearing monitors that will vibrate when coming within six feet of one another! 

Clearly, we are going to great lengths to keep our children safe. It almost feels like a war – an endless battle against an invisible but potent enemy. 

I found myself wondering… all of this is being done to ensure our children’s bodies are protected from physical disease, but what about spiritual protection? What are we doing to ensure the safety of their souls—something infinitely more important than their bodies?

Do you know how detrimental non-kosher food is to the souls of our innocent children? Forget about micro-bacteria! That pork will do far more damage than any coronavirus!

What can we do to ensure our children’s spiritual health, just as we have done to protect their physical health?

We can pray with them each morning. We can start their day by giving a few coins to charity. 

We can be conscious of how much time we spend talking about the meaningless parts of life, and try to introduce more spiritual connectedness.

When our children learn Torah, they purify the surrounding air in such a powerful way. Let’s try to find time to learn Torah with them, even just for a couple of minutes, each day. Saying Shema together at night will add to their protection. 

We’ve invested so much effort to protect them from a virus whose risk to children is so minimal; we should spend at least as much time ensuring their souls are protected. 

So this Friday night, seated around your Shabbat dinner table, please don’t talk about COVID. Discuss the parshah and the upcoming High Holidays. With time, you will see how much better off your children (and even you yourselves!) are faring.  

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