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Was quarantining the easy part?

Friday, 22 May, 2020 - 4:44 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Babies cry upon birth.

Do you blame them?

It’s traumatic. 

For nine months the fetus was safely ensconced in the mother’s womb. Mothers usually do everything that they can to make that experience as pleasant and healthy as possible.

Emerging from that protective enveloped state to the outside world as an independent being, is fraught with challenge.

It only gets more challenging.

Reminiscing about my own childhood, kindergarten was an okay experience for me as far as I can remember. Entering first grade was far more anxiety filled. I have the blessing of exemplary parents, may Hashem bless them with long happy and healthy years, who were most supportive, but exiting the familiarity of kindergarten to enter the classroom dressed in uniform and school cap (Australia style) was a radical change.

Birthdays are nonetheless days of celebration. It may be a greater challenge to have been born, but it is also a great gift. Good things are not easier, but they are certainly better. 

Nine months in the womb is great. Ten months has the doctors worried. Mothers get very jittery after the ‘due date’ passes. Birth is a very welcome stage for everyone. Even though undeniably it also is more challenging for the baby. Growth and development require effort and energy.

Like a fetus in a womb, quarantining for as long as is absolutely needed is tolerable and necessary. It’s difficult in some way but its very relaxing in other ways. For many it allowed for pushing the looming problem off to be dealt with at a later date. 

Coming out of quarantine is more challenging. Just like birth. 

My dear friends. Look around at the world and you will see something undeniable. 

Closing down our countries was the relatively easy part. Nobody wanted to be an accomplice to spreading a killer virus that was claiming life after life. In the face of a raging forest-fire bravado is not on the menu. That would be sheer lunacy. The vast majority of society was in consensus that the virus was an uncontainable raging fire that threatened to overwhelm our health systems.

Reopening our societies and economies is hardly that consensus filled. On the contrary it is rife with contention and opiniated individuals hurling accusations against each other. Each one retorts that the other is insensitive to the realities of the situation.

I have not come to advocate for any side. There are multiple issues that have to be resolved. There are enough opinion givers out there.

What I would like to impart with these few short lines, is the urgent need for absorbing the timely message of unity that our Torah advocates. 

We are in challenging times.

During times of war, unity is somewhat easier as there is a common enemy to fight against.

It is when the war is over and peace reigns that the real challenge of unity begins.

The Jewish people arrived at the mountain of Sinai six weeks after their liberation from Egypt.

The Torah describes their encampment at Sinai as being unified as one. To the extent that the word used to describe their encampment at the mountain is not ‘they encamped’ rather ‘he encamped at the mountain’. Referring to the entire people of Israel, some 2-3 million souls. The people of Israel was unified at the foot of the mountain of Sinai as one person with one heart. 

They no longer had the common Egyptian enemy to unite them. They were united by something far greater and more inspiring, by the ultimate unifying force. G-d.

Being in the presence of G-d Who is awe inspiring and exaltaed beyond description, melted away their natural differences and they molded together as one. They were united as one in the common goal of connecting to G-d.

This encampment took place 3,332 years ago, six days before the giving of the Torah. It was on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month of Sivan, which corresponds this year to Sunday May 24.

Every year we reflect on this message when this time of the year comes around. The Jewish year, with its holidays is a cycle of recurring spiritual influences, with each year bringing a new dimension to the cycle

The G-dly gift of an ‘energy boost’ and a spiritual ‘grant’ of being able to generate unity couldn’t come at a more opportune time. As we emerge from solitude and reengage in society. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could emerge from our cocoon of quarantine with a deeper appreciation of the gift of society?

We can. If we only focus on our common goal as given to us by G-d at Sinai. 

613 mitzvahs for the Jewish people,

7 universal laws for the entire body of humankind.

By definition, it is more difficult to interact with others than to be all alone.

Pay attention to todays date. 5/22/2020. Almost all 2’s. the only non 2 number is the 5. 

Herein lies the key to unity.

1 is unity because there is no one to fight with. 

Quarantined.

2 provides the possibility of conflict. 

Reemerging to Society.

3 is the mature understanding that 1 can coexist with 2 and create a cohesive society that agrees to disagree on some things and agree on others. Most importantly, 3 means that at all times we maintain respect and tolerance for each other.

(The secret of marriage is inviting the presence of G-d into the marriage. The two opposite partners in the marriage, male and female are both merged through their common surrendering to the presence of G-d in their midst). 

The gift of 3 is the gift of Torah. 

The Talmud notes the predominance of the number three: “A threefold Torah, to a threefold people, through a third-born, on a third day, in the third month.” (Shabbat 88a). click here for more on this.

Unity is not easy. Never was. Especially now. But NOW is the time to try.

When this time period comes around, it’s a special opportunity to generate unity.

Unity starts at home. In your own self. Be aware of who you are and what is realistically expected of you. It’s painful to live with unrealistic expectations of oneself. Be realistic. A spiritual mentor may help you see yourself objectively.

Think about who you are not getting along with. Can those relationships be healed? Some relationships are best left alone, and some require distancing because of the pain involved. But in many instances, we will discover that we could be more tolerant, respectful and even loving of each other.

Hey, with a little bit of G-dly help, that can easily turn into what seems elusive, UNITY.

G-d would be delighted if we were more unified. We would be the first to gain if there were unity as G-d’s Blessed presence is manifest where there is unity.

NOW, as we emerge from the ‘womb’ into ‘real life’, is the time to take up the challenge. 

Let’s eliminate fighting.

Moreover, let’s adopt tolerance and respect.

Let’s take the plunge to be peel away our ‘ivory towers’ even if it means being vulnerable to a certain extent, and embrace unity!!!

Together!!!!

As one united people of Israel we will once again receive the Torah on Shavuot. Some synagogues will be open, others will be closed. Some people are still self-isolating, some have no choice, they have to go to work, and are out there living life as best as they can within the rules. Some are more adventurous and think that its ridiculous to have all this social distancing. Some are super cautious and point to the warnings of a possible second wave G-d forbid. Some go further to call the second wave inevitable, barring a miracle that is. We can certainly all pray that G-d prove them wrong while taking natural precautions at the same time.

I don’t know who is right. 

I do know that 

  1. We need to keep to local laws.

  2. We need to agree to respect the differing approaches that we may have within that framework of adhering to the local governmental laws.

  3. We need to aim for UNITY in our families and communities as we prepare for receiving the Torah on this coming Shavuot – Thursday night May 28 – Saturday night May 30.


Shabbat Shalom

Chodesh Tov

Rabbi Yosef Kantor


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