INSIGHT OUT BY Adina Morris
I have been hesitant to write this week. We are all in a most difficult situation and trying valiantly to make the best of it. Many of us have signed up for Whatsapp chats to help us navigate the recent closures and restrictions, myself included. I have found that I have stopped looking at some of them. Why? In a word, overwhelm. Too many ideas, too much information, too many experts’ opinions/facts. I was no longer able to keep up and read all of the posts. I became frozen. And I think that is why I was hesitant to write. I certainly do not want to be another one of those posts that overwhelms people.
My husband reminded me of a thought I shared at our Shabbos table Friday night that he felt was worthy of sharing with all of you and it would be worthwhile if it was helpful to even one person. So I relented and agreed to sit down once again at my computer this evening to share with all of you.
You see, my husband, who is the Rav of our Shul, and our Shul board made a decision a few short hours before Shabbos this past week to close the Shul doors, to suspend all minyanim and all classes and activities until further notice. Many communities around the country and indeed around the world had already and have since then done the same.
Friday night we davened together as a family without community. We had a Shabbos meal with no guests and all of the families in our Shul did the same. We explained to our children that we would no longer be going out unless deemed necessary for basic needs and that only Daddy or I would be going on errands.
As we sat eating our meal, I shared with everyone two memories.
The first was from when I was in high school and our Shul, where my father was the Rav, burned to the ground. The morning of the fire my mother came into my room after 6 am to inform me that minyan would be in our living room and the Shul was no more. It was a surreal experience for me and I still have vivid memories of that morning and the weeks and months following the fire. For me particularly, I felt lost without our Shul, my Shul. Now fast forward to 2020 and BH there was no fire, but once again, our Shul doors have been closed. This time it was me, the mother, going into my highschool daughter’s room close to Shabbos to tell her the Shul has been closed due to the outbreak of the virus. How poignant for me. Again, most surreal. And I imagine I will not forget the day anytime soon.
The second memory I shared was just a little over 7 years ago, where some of you may remember, when my water broke unexpectedly early at 32 weeks into my pregnancy with our youngest son, the day after Yom Kippur. I ended up in the hospital on complete bed rest, not to leave my bed, for the next 12 days trying to push off labor as long as possible. Those 12 days were most trying as they included all of Sukkos, while my husband had to manage our busy household with four other children at home and run Shul over one of the busiest of Chagim without my help. And me? I was left with one charge and one charge alone. Stay in bed, don’t move. Keep the baby in at all costs for as long as possible. His life depended on it. The fear was real, the anxiety high and the unknown was the only certainty. I was shut in, away from the outside world for 12 days. With few visitors and phone calls, as the rest of the time was Shabbos or Yom Tov, it was most isolating. I was separated from my family during all of the Chagim. It was most difficult and lonely for all of us. My husband cancelled our guests. Instead of me hosting, people dropped off ready made food to feed our family. The Chessed we experienced during those days was so precious to us. It helped us through a most challenging time.
I learned something from both of these events and this is what I want to share with all of you. The shul was like a second home for me. I was bereft without it. I tried to create a new space to daven and connect to Hashem to fill it’s absence until we had our brand new Shul completed. I don’t think I realized how integral the Shul was to me until it was no longer there. There is a sense of community but it was more than that. It was my anchor. It was my place of connection that I took with me all week, without even realizing how important it was until it was gone. Over the weeks that followed, I found new places for my Tefilla at home, and have done so in every home that I have lived in since then. Raising a family doesn’t always allow me to get to Shul or to daven inside the main sanctuary, but I learned long ago that I could find my spot. I found that I did have a strong connection with Hashem even outside of Shul. I worked on refining that connection during those months without our regular Shul and continue to do so to this day.
And that leads me to the second lesson I learned when I was stuck in the hospital for 12 days not being able to leave my bed. Sukkos is the holiday of going outside and relying on Hashem to protect us. I was shut inside, and I needed to rely on Hashem to protect me and my baby, while I did everything I could to protect us too. My hospital room became my Sukkah and I had lots of time to daven and meditate. I had lots of time to talk to Hashem, indeed I did. I often wondered when I thought back on those days, months later, even years later, was I delirious? Maybe a little at times… but mostly I think I was more connected with Hashem than I ever was before. I talked to Him and davened to Him and I learned to completely rely on Him. I must do my Hishtadlus, my effort to be careful, daven and then to give up everything to Hashem’s will. I was truly in His hands and I felt His presence with me most intensely for all 12 days of my isolation.
We are living in most trying times right now. Every day, every hour, seems to bring more concern and uncertainty. We are bereft of our Shuls, separated from our friends and neighbors and fearful for the health and wellbeing of our community, Klal Yisroel and indeed communities throughout the world.
But there is one constant theme. We have Hashem. He is with us in our pain, He is with us in our joy. He is here holding our hands helping us to get through this time. It is a time to reach out to Him and ask for His guidance, for His wisdom and for His strength as ours seems to fail. Ask for His supportive arms to hold us up when we feel like giving up.
Even though we seem to be alone and isolated from each other, we have so many things to be grateful for. We have each other. We have technology to connect us and keep our spirits up, to pray and learn together and to continue to educate our children. We have spacious homes to spread out in. Many of us have the outdoor area surrounding our homes to play in, especially as the weather thankfully continues to warm up! We do continue to have food supplies and other essentials. We have come together as a community to pray, learn Torah and do Chessed for each other. We have so many blessings in the midst of the craziness.
So my challenge to all of us this week is to count and appreciate your blessings. Do your part in keeping yourself, your family, your friends, neighbors and community safe. Turn to Hashem for guidance, comfort and support. And finally reach out to family, friends and neighbors with as much support as you can and is possible under these circumstances. Together we can help each other get through this most frightening and concerning period. We can unite and bring much needed Achdus to Klal Yisroel, strengthen our connection to Hashem and hasten the bringing of Mashiach B’Karov B’mheira Byameinu Amen. Wishing you all well.