In no way does this article mean to minimize the pain many people have suffered due to COVID-19. It has brought sickness and death to thousands of people. It has caused financial problems, marital problems, and psychological problems. The COVID-19 pandemic is not a laughing matter, and we must all observe the medical guidelines and safety procedures. Recently, a rav I am close with told me how things in his Monsey community have “returned to normal.” He boasted that they have kiddushim and Shalosh Seudos meals together and even “eat from each other’s plates.” Yesterday, he emailed me that he has COVID and asked that I daven for him.
My outlook on this – and things like it – is simple. While I do not ignore the sadness, tragedies, and danger, I try – as best as I can – to see the positive, as well. Unfortunately, I am far from being a “Gam zo l’tovah” (This too is for the best) guy, but I do try to see the good and focus on it. During this past Shabbas Shuvah, I pushed myself to see the good in the COVID-19 challenge that Hashem has sent our way – and then I went one step further. I not only want to see the good, I want to thank Hashem for the good!
Therefore, even though we are still extremely far from this being over – and many challenges still lie ahead – I plan on thanking Hashem, on Yom Kippur, for 19 things. When a daughter of mine asked me what the connection was to Yom Kippur, I answered the following: Maybe we have to do t’shuvah for not recognizing these good, positive things. Obviously, Hashem has sent this pandemic for a reason, and it will continue until we learn these lessons. Everything our King does has a purpose and a message, and if we don’t understand that message – the lesson may still continue. So, dearest friends, let’s stop complaining and start focusing. I don’t have all the answers – and I struggle with many of these things myself – but after seven months of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s do our best to see the good that has come out of this and ask forgiveness from Hashem for only seeing the bad.
Jewish Unity. People have started davening near homes and in parks and, for the first time ever, Sefardim, Ashkenazim, Yemenites, and Chabadniks are davening together. All kidding aside; that’s an unbelievable accomplishment!
Family Time. People are home more and spending much more time with the family.
My father Is Home! I spoke to a teenage boy recently who told me the following: “My father’s usually flying all over the world; but since March, he is running his business from home. I feel like I got my father back!”
Pesach Like It Used to Be. With the hotel programs canceled, people actually spent Pesach “the old-fashioned way” and loved it!
More Torah. I don’t know about you, but I am learning more (thanks to Zoom) than ever before. With just one click, I attend a Daf Yomi shiur in B’nei Brak; two hours later I am Zooming into a shiur in Jerusalem and then two hours later I am watching Rav Moshe Weinberger in New York.
Quarantine Tzadikim. Everyone who has been in quarantine told me that they learned Mishnayos, read some good s’farim, and studied the parshah like never before.
Davening Slowly. When shuls were (or still are) closed, we all had to daven at home. At first, this was a major knockout punch, but then we all discovered something amazing: the Siddur! We took our time, focused on every word, and concentrated on what we were saying.
The Best Rosh HaShanah Ever! An 81-year-old friend of mine told me that this Rosh HaShanah he davened in the backyard of someone’s home. Everyone (all 20 of them) kept their distance from each other, so “there was no talking, just davening and singing. It was the most beautiful Rosh HaShanah davening of my life.” This was his exact quote.
Quiet in Shul. For those of us still in shul (while strictly following the rules), the davening has changed for the better. It’s quieter and much more serious. Nobody misses the kiddushim or the big social scene. We are in Hashem’s house and we all feel it.
Downsizing Simchos. – How many people went into heavy debt just so they could “keep up with the Schwartzes” and make a fancy wedding for their kids? Not these days! Simple weddings with limited people and guess what? The young couples are as happy as ever.
Taking Our Health Seriously. Avoiding COVID-19 has made us more aware of our health. As a result, most of us have begun living healthier lifestyles. Only good will come from this.
Aliyah Applications Are Up. The Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh are reporting major increases in the number of people applying for aliyah. This is always good news, but remember the rule: Come to Israel because you want to, not because you have to.
Ex-Israelis Returning Home. Hundreds of thousands of ex-Israelis living all over the world are expected to return to Israel within the next three years. This is especially true for those who have been living outside Israel for 10-20 years. Enough is enough – they’re coming home.
Appreciation Is Up. For people who made aliyah and are already living in Israel, the “appreciation level” is way up. Yes, we certainly have our challenges here, but we are thankful for dealing with this in Israel and not elsewhere.
Thank you, Teachers! The COVID challenge has given us a new outlook on teachers. Teaching classes on Zoom or in classrooms with “capsules” or “pods” are far more difficult, yet they do it with tremendous dedication and sacrifice.
Palestinian. When is the last time you heard that fake word? Who cares? They have literally fallen off the radar.
Much Less Public Chilul Shabbos. I live on a main street in Israel that, unfortunately, is usually very busy on Shabbos. For the last few weeks, almost no cars. The roads on Rosh HaShanah looked like a ghost town, restaurants and malls are closed on Shabbos, as well. Think about that.
Fewer People Dying – Although many have died from COVID, the overall death rate in Israel in the last seven months is lower than ever! I checked the numbers myself with several chevrah kadisha workers who have told me that it’s 100% true: fewer people have died from March to September 2020 than in the same period in the last ten years!
And finally, to end this list with some humor, I thank Hashem that the pandemic is called COVID-19 and not COVID-27, because I am out of ideas!
All kidding aside, as we have just been through the holiest day of the year, let’s ask Hashem to forgive us for not seeing the good and positive in these challenging times. Let’s convince ourselves – and our Father and King – that we have learned the lessons and have internalized their messages – so that there’s no need for this to continue.
G’mar chasimah tovah to one and all!
Shmuel Sackett is a 100% product of Queens. He was born in Middle Village and moved to KGH shortly before his bar-mitzvah. He graduated from YCQ (1975) and YHSQ (1979). He was Havurat Yisrael’s first Youth Director (4 years) and started the first 2 NCSY chapters in Queens. Shmuel made aliyah in 1990 and co-founded Manhigut Yehudit, together with Moshe Feiglin. His website is www.JewishIsrael.org Sackett is married with 6 children and 4 grandchildren. He lives in Herziliya Pituach.