By Martine Alperstein
א׳ בְּנִיסָן תש״פ Rosh Chodesh Nissan 578
25 March 2020
The lights dim. The camera rolls. A roaring male lion fills the screen. All is quiet except for the sound of crunching popcorn, the shlurping of soda and the soundtrack of the movie starting on the screen.
90 mins of sci fi hell as we are glued, fixated and sitting on the edge of our seats. The credits roll, shoulders relax, and we hear a common sigh of relief. It is over. It was just a movie. It was not real.
Except it is.
It is real and we are living it, breathing it, experiencing it …….. every day and in every corner of our earth.
Covid-19. The corona virus that has spread its way across the entire globe and has changed our lives and our realities. It has brought with it fear, panic, distress, suicide, cruelty, dishonesty. It has reduced the world to latex gloves, a ridiculous amount of alcohol gel and all sorts of masks of varying types and qualities. It has crippled business and left many unemployed and unable to provide for their families. It has separated neighbourhoods, communities, families and people. It has left a trail of many dead.
What the hell is going on?
How on earth did this happen?
What does this mean now? What will this mean in the future? Will we ever understand it? What can we learn from it? How can we stop it? What can be done to prevent it? How do we flatten the curve? How do we kill the graph completely? How do we eradicate this virus from our world?
I am an observant Jew. I believe in G-d and I believe everything happens for a reason. But there are some things that I don’t think I will ever understand. And Covid-19 is one of them. Is G-d trying to tell us something? Is G-d punishing us? Is G-d trying to help us put an end to pollution and save our environment? Is this G-d’s way of culling, of controlling population? Is G-d giving us a lesson to learn? What is G-d thinking?
I am desperate to find some meaning, some understanding, some clarity in this terrifying chaos. And I keep replaying the idea that these emotions and questions are not just pertinent to now. History is overflowing with records of atrocities, of cruelties, of war, of disease, of death.
There are some incredible people out there doing amazing work. Giving of themselves, sacrificing time with their families, sleep, rest and so much more to do whatever they can to help. The medical teams are putting themselves at risk in order to help save those already infected. People are reaching out to others to support where they can, to donate what they can and help where they can. There is many a shining light amongst us, who make the choice to turn on their torch in full.
And yet, this feeling of loneliness is overwhelming. Overwhelming for me who has a husband and children with me at home, overwhelming for me who is surrounded by an incredible network of really amazing family and friends who are constantly in touch, supporting me and being supported by me. And still, I feel so alone. Days on end of not leaving the house, of very little human touch, of keeping distance. Zoom is still just a picture on a screen, WhatsApp video is just another variation on a different device. And as much as I am so grateful for this technology which makes a huge difference to our communication and our being in lockdown, it still does not replace human contact, human touch and face to face conversation.
I don’t know what the lesson to learn is, what the takeaway should be. And maybe I never will. But one thing Covid-19 has highlighted in bold with flashing lights is that we are us. There is no distinction. There is no discrimination. There is no privilege. There is no advantaged and no disadvantaged. Covid-19 does not care if you are black, white, yellow, green or purple. Covid-19 does not care if you pray to G-d, Hashem, Allah, Buddha, a totem pole, the Sun God or to nothing at all. Covid-19 does not care if you are straight, gay, bi-sexual or transsexual. Covid-19 does not give a damn if you have millions in the bank, are just getting by, struggling to put food on the table or living on handouts. Fame and Fortune mean nothing at the end of the day.
Covid-19 has humbled me.
Covid-19 has reinforced my belief that the only thing that counts is the way you behave, the way you conduct yourself, the way you treat others and the way you relate to others. Ego, arrogance, importance, high and mightiness is a waste of time, of emotion, of your time on this earth. We need to focus on what counts. On what brings value. On what creates meaning. And on what really makes a difference in this lifetime of ours.
is how we shine and make a mark on this world מצוות שבין אדם לחברו
The choice is yours.
“I light a candle to our love
In love our problems disappear
But all in all we soon discover
That one and one is all we long to hear”
(Pipes of Peace – Paul McCartney)