In the olden days of several weeks ago, I used to take a daily power walk around the main street of Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef. I was always struck by the fact that people living in the same community and walking down the same street can be living in extremely different realities. One person may be shopping for food to serve at a sheva brachos, while another may have just gotten up from shiv’ah. One may be coming from a home filled with excitement due to an upcoming wedding, while another comes from a more somber home dealing with the illness of a loved one. All these realities converge on the street as each person goes about his business. People simultaneously move around in the bubbles of their lives. At times, one bubble will bump into another. While our inner worlds may look drastically different, it may not seem obvious, since on an external level we all have to do the activities that all people must do in order to function.
These days, I find that the differing and often opposing realities reside inside of me and take turns bubbling up. One minute, I read a soothing article about how this mind-boggling situation is all for the best. Out of His love for us, Hashem is forcing us into a situation that will prompt us to lead better lives. The situation will serve as an impetus for great change that is long overdue. We are forced to slow down, take stock of the truly important things in life, spend time with our families, and take the time to daven properly and connect with Hashem. All is good. I am calm.
Then I read a doom and gloom article. We are living in apocalyptic times. Who knows where this will all lead? What will happen to us? Our families? Our friends? Our healthcare system? Our economy? Humanity? Selfless people working in the trenches thankfully send out blaring warning signals to encourage us to take the threat seriously and protect ourselves. Serenity gone. Anxiety up. I find myself confronted with questions and decisions that seem so insignificant but can have very far-reaching ramifications. Do we really need more milk? Is it worth the trip to the makolet? Does it really matter if the water doesn’t go down in the tub? Is it worth bringing in a plumber? After complaining for years about my ovens that resemble toys more than real ovens, I finally went out and bought two new ovens to replace them. They were delivered but, at this point, I have no plans to have them installed.
Yesterday, I ventured out of the house all the way to the end of the block to the garbage bins. The fresh air was exhilarating. At the same time, there was a wedding taking place on a staircase right across from our complex. My happy and excited bubble came to the surface. I can sometimes forget what is going on when sitting at the dinner table with my family, night after night, enjoying family time that was not available to us just a few short weeks ago. But then I hear a ping. And another one. And another. I can ignore it for a while; but at some point I’m going to read those messages.
Every day, the world we wake up to seems drastically different from the one we went to sleep in the night before. The threat continues. Our lives are turned upside down, almost unrecognizable. I feel as if I am desperately trying to hang on to a boat that is struggling to stay on course but is heading with increasing speed towards frighteningly unchartered territory. As it travels, it bumps back and forth between islands of serenity and islands of anxiety. Shabbos was truly an oasis of time. Although, unfortunately, there was no davening in shul, there was also no news. No emails or WhatsApps. Just 25 hours of undisrupted family time. We were back in the happy bubble, baruch Hashem.
I try to think about what I am expected to do during these beyond-scary times. I am very grateful that I have gone to many shiurim about Emunah and Bitachon over the years. Now is the time to put into practice in a major way everything that I have learned. I wouldn’t call it easy. Not at all. But I am trying to use the lessons that I have learned to keep things in perspective. I can do what I can do. I am doing my best to follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health. In some ways I am even more stringent than they are.
But after that, I have to let go. Hashem runs the world. We do not. What He desires to happen will happen. We can daven and hope that what we want for ourselves, our family, and klal Yisrael is in synch with what Hashem thinks is best for us. We are in His loving hands, which is not a bad place to be. May we all stay healthy and safe, and may all of our t’filos be answered speedily and l’tovah.
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.