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When Negative is Positive

Friday, 11 September, 2020 - 3:38 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

A close friend in Europe sent me a scan of a blood test report he just took.


Yep, it was a Coronavirus test. He wasn’t feeling well and went to get tested. He reported back that he has good news. His blood test came back with a coronavirus negative diagnosis.

Negative in this case is positive. So said my friend. Sounds plausible. Finding out that one doesn’t have ‘THE’ virus is good news.

The logical continuation of that should be that testing positive would be negative. 

Is it?

A relative in Denver told me a totally different story. He was diagnosed as positive for Coronavirus a few weeks ago. 

He said that in a strange way he felt very relieved to get a positive diagnosis.

The mental stress was over. Unknowingly to him there was a subconscious anxiety that he had endured for many months regarding the possibility of being infected.

The uncertainty and accompanying stress were relieved with the positive diagnosis.

In this case the negative of being physically ill was experienced by him as being a positive. For it made him stronger in terms of his mental health. 

This is all quite confusing.

Reminds me of the luckless guy who went to the bank to get a loan for a million dollars. The bank manager said ‘we don’t know you, how could we possibly issue you such a loan?’ He exclaimed exasperatedly to the bank manager ‘I don’t understand, the other bank I asked said ‘you? a loan? we know you too well, how could we possibly give you such a loan?’ To get a loan do you have to know me or not know me?’

Is NOT having Coronavirus positive? Or is HAVING (survivable) Coronavirus positive?

The lockdowns and restrictions on travel have a similar double sidedness to them. 

One friend who is retired and travels extensively to visit friends and relatives, complained bitterly about being unable to get away from their home. This friend has a beautiful home in a prime location but is feeling ‘caged-in’ and sorely missing the social benefits that traveling affords them. 

On the other hand, a relative who travels incessantly for her work, and seems to enjoy it, commented to me this it is a wonderful ‘vacation’ to be at home for the last six months. 

As it is the month of Elul, and Rosh Hashana the head of the new year is almost upon us, I am reflecting on the year gone by. Particularly during the last twelve days of the year and now during the last week of the year it is an appropriate time to reflect on how your year went. 

What kind of a year was it?

Spiritually. And materially.

Think back. Since last Rosh Hashana (September 2019). How has your year been? 

It is quite in-vogue right now to be sighing and ‘kvetching’. 

And there is much to complain about.

The world is collectively challenged in a way it has not been challenged ever before. 

(If you suffered personally during these last few months, please know that I am not intending these words to minimize your ordeal or pain. I am intending these words to those who have the luxury of looking at the events of the past half a year from the perspective of being inconvenienced or disrupted rather than pain or danger. 

It is to those of us who have nothing of major importance to complain about, but are swept up in the ‘mood’ of our times of ‘gloom’ and are fixated on the updated count of death and sickness that the media never lets us take a break from, that I write these following words).

Take an honest look at the year that is now coming to a finale.

I think we can all agree on the word ‘extraordinary’ to sum up the year.

It was not ordinary. This year was different beyond recognition than any other year. For everyone and in every place.

However, there have been many silver linings during this cloudy year. Many people have rediscovered their families. It has been a time for many to discover themselves on a deeper level. The acts of benevolent kindness by first responders, by neighbors, by family and friends are inspiring beyond words. 


(I plan please G-d to do a thirty minute online sermon this week on Thursday night 7:30 PM Thailand time, and share what I think is the biggest most wondrous ‘reclamation’ of this year click here to get zoom details).

To sum it up. there have been very very difficult things that have transpired this year.

We would never ask for them.

There have been very very inspiring and uplifting things that have happened as a result. 

We wouldn’t want to lose those gifts either.

The previous Rebbe of Lubavitch was asked after his release from his harrowing ordeal in Soviet prison (where he almost lost his life) how he felt about his experiences. The Rebbe summed it up like this:

‘If someone were to try to ‘sell me’ one moment of suffering like that for a billion dollars I would not agree. Yet if someone tried to buy one moment of my previous suffering from me, I would not sell it either’.

I think this is the answer to the ‘positive/negative’ conundrum regarding catching the virus or not catching it. 

My friend was delighted not to get it. My relative, who did get it, would not have prayed to get it, but once he got it, and passed it, he is very happy that it is over and he can now be a lot more relaxed and a lot less anxious.

What should we be praying for this year?

While we try not to complain about what has already happened to us, for once G-d has brought something upon us, we need to accept it as being for our best and recognize that it is from Him. 

Before it happens however, we ought to be praying and beseeching G-d for REVEALED and VISIBLE good. Good that we DO perceive as being good without needing to resort to intellectual gymnastics. And even if there is some spiritual ‘dirt’ that needs to be wiped off, we beseech G-d to wipe it off with His divine mercies  in a very soft way, rather than with any harshness. 

Last year was wondrous. Extraordinary. It came from G-d so it must be good. But in so many ways it was not the kind of good that we could comprehend from our mortal perspective. 

This year we want it to be wondrous again. 

With one additional but pivotal detail. 

We beseech G-d to make it the kind of good that we can see and perceive with our physical eyes. Things of a happy healthy and prosperous nature.

In the Hebrew I will say it like this:

5780 in the Hebrew is:

תהא שנת פלאות

May it be a year of wonders. That was last year.

5781, this upcoming (next Friday night) year in Hebrew is:

תהא שנת פלאות אראנו

May it be a year of ‘wonders I show you’. i.e. may G-d shower upon us VISIBLE wonders. Visible and comprehensible to all of us. Even from our physical vantage point.

The most awaited for wonder and miracle is the imminent arrival of Mashiach. May he come speedily in our days, AMEN!!!

Shana Tova Umetukah!!!!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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