Preface: Although I have decided to write an article about the more mundane and lighter parts of my experience during this most challenging time, my thoughts don’t veer for a moment from those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus. It is difficult, and even unhealthy, to be in a dark and heavy place on a constant basis. I hope that my article will be read in that light.

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While my family and I have been hunkering down at home for almost five weeks, I can’t honestly say that I feel confined. As a matter of fact, it feels like my home has expanded. We have a mirpeset and a small patch of grass, which, due to the strong sun of Beit Shemesh, basically go unused most of the time. A mirpeset is a porch, in Hebrew, but somehow it feels so much more genuine when I use the name we call it here in Israel. The mirpeset off of our living room is where we build our sukkah and have an occasional barbecue. Once in a while, my husband will learn out there, and, on very rare occasions, I will relax out there with a magazine. But that’s pretty much it. That was until “Corona.”

At the Grand Opening of our mirpeset before Pesach, we removed the last few slats from our sukkah still piled on the floor and set up shop. Now our mirpeset has taken on many new functions and has become a hotspot in our home. First, it became a storage area for products delivered to my home that I prefer to keep outside for the requisite few days before bringing them inside. It also became my personal gym, where I could replace my power walk with a stationary jog, and our cozy den where we play Rumikub and Apples to Apples, which were retrieved from storage and dusted off after years of being ignored. The mirpeset also serves as the Women’s Section of Shul. On my mirpeset, I can choose to participate in the t’filos of one of at least three minyanim that I can hear nearby. At this point, I feel like I actually live inside a shul. I hear all of the davening from the porch minyan outside my door without setting foot out of my home. I do step out my door for Birkas Kohanim, as a family of kohanim live right above my garden.

The most memorable use of our mirpeset this year was on Leil HaSeder. In an effort to lessen the sense of loneliness felt by all those who were forced to have a Seder alone, due to the crazy situation in which we find ourselves, the entire country was encouraged to go out onto their balconies at exactly 8:30 p.m. during the Seder and sing the “Mah Nishtanah.” The unusual feeling of achdus triggered by this collective hug is something I will never forget. It is one of the positive things from this ordeal that I hope we can take with us to our future sedarim. When I imagine myself talking about the “Corona days” years from now, “Ma Nishtanah” on the balcony will certainly be on my list of recollections.

On Chol HaMoed, for the first time in weeks, we ventured out for a very short walk. It was great to reconnect with our neighbors who were also hanging out on their mirpasot. One neighbor actually pitched a tent and went “camping.” We also did not stay at home, and in line with our penchant for travel, we “visited” (virtually) places like Alaska, Antarctica, New Zealand, Iceland, England, South Africa, the rain forests of South America, and Norway. We enjoyed our trips immensely, without having to worry about transportation, long lines, budget, or kosher food. Our meals on our mirpeset were relaxed, with ample opportunity to ponder and debate the issues of the day: Will our restrictions of isolation be modified? Will our politicians be able to form a government? Will our delivery from the supermarket include eggs?

As an aside, I like to imagine that the goal of all the political drama we have been witnessing of late is to give us some sort of two-sided sport to follow while we are stuck at home with reduced options for leisure. At times, it is difficult to keep track of the ball, and sometimes the arena seems to switch from politics to boxing; but I am sure that this is all just to keep things interesting. Regarding the eggs, there has been a severe egg shortage here is Israel, which was timed to occur around our “Holiday of Eggs.” The country has made valiant efforts to import millions of eggs, but most often they disappear moments after hitting the shelves. My block WhatsApp group alerts everyone to egg sightings, but within minutes an update message is sent stating that the eggs are gone. Since we have not been going to stores at all, every recipe I make is scrutinized as to whether or not it is egg-worthy. Indeed, at the time of this writing, I have zero eggs in my home.

Yesterday evening, my neighbors made a bar mitzvah on their mirpeset, complete with a siyum, singing, and dancing, as the neighbors on the block joined in the celebration from their balconies. While these Corona celebrations are not typical of what we are used to, they are special and memorable in so many positive ways. Just as the water in Venice is reported to be much clearer and more beautiful now, due to the fact that there are much fewer boats polluting the water, the simplicity of our actions and celebrations have led to a situation where all that we are involved in (Pesach plans, foods, activities) have taken on a purity and richness that we often lack. It is now easier to focus on the essence of what we are doing and celebrating rather than being distracted by all the extra trimmings we’ve added over the years.

As I write this article, our Corona restrictions have just been eased somewhat. The eggs are ever so slowly returning to the shelves. Miraculously, a government has been formed. As I continue to enjoy the sounds of t’filah from the balconies around me, I daven that our t’filos are quickly answered and that we will soon eagerly run to our mirpasot to greet Mashiach.


Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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