Before Pesach, I wrote an article explaining the potential dangers of government overreach during this pandemic and its ramifications on life after the virus has passed. Highlighted in the piece was a threat made by the worst mayor New York City has ever seen, Bill de Blasio, wherein he made the statement that synagogues and churches (not mosques) that choose to remain open will be forcibly shut down, and may even be closed permanently. Now while I am certainly not in favor of houses of worship choosing to stay open at this time, I am certainly not going so far as to abolish the First Amendment to do so.

As the world reels from coronavirus, many people are taking this opportunity to make political statements, using this crisis to “prove” that the policies that they have been pushing for all along are actually correct. On the surface, it may seem that, sure, universal healthcare and the government giving you money on a monthly basis would help out in a time like this; but it’s important to note that the measures being taken by the government now are only being taken because we are in crisis mode. And above all else, you can’t use a crisis to prove how life should work normally.

By now, there are very few shuls remaining open in the northeastern part of the country. Certainly the ones remaining open are doing so in secret. In fact, I can’t imagine that there are many synagogues across the country, and even around the world, that are still open. However, we know that there are. And this issue isn’t exclusive to the Jewish community. Every day, there are stories of not only synagogues, but churches and mosques being found open despite the mass requirement of social distancing. This has resulted in the new formation of “snitch culture,” where members of a community call the authorities to put an end to gatherings within their own communities. Religious leaders are being arrested and prosecuted for holding services – for choosing to disobey orders to remain closed.

Pop culture has a funny way of contrasting current events. When the world is in chaos, television, movies, and music tend to try to get your mind off of the hectic nature of real life and let you focus on something less dire. The middle of the 20th century saw the rise of rock and roll in the ’50s and ’60s, disco in the ’70s, and hair bands in the ’80s. All of this came amid the Cold War, when every American was constantly worried that the world could end in a nuclear war at any given moment. As soon as the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended, we saw a rise in grunge music. As opposed to the musical genres that preceded it, grunge had a depressing sound to it, regardless of the lyrics.

At this point, I think we all can agree that we are all either sick, tired, or both about this COVID lockdown. We all long for the day when we can gather as a group of people, go back to work, or simply walk around without fear of killing our loved ones. However, while we are all cooped up and not allowed to interact with anyone outside our immediate household, it has allowed us to plan what changes we will make once we are finally out of this situation. It’s almost as if the global community is going to be given its own chance at a New Year’s Resolution. Governments will spend tremendous amounts of money trying to ensure that this never happens again. The UN and the WHO (World Health Organization) will put out guidelines that a handful of countries will follow. Hospitals around the world will begin to stockpile supplies in anticipation of having to go through something like this again.

It was at the sheva b’rachos of his grandson that I truly learned of the greatness of Rabbi Mendel Kaufman. The hosts of the sheva brachos decided to play a game akin to the old television show, The Newlywed Game. However, instead of exclusively newlyweds, the contestants were the newly married couple, the parents, and the grandparents. The rest of us were spectators. It came to the question directed at the husbands: “Name something you own that your wife would want to get rid of.” Before anyone else was able to respond, Rabbi Kaufman answered simply: “Rabbi Kaufman.”