To have our lives so dramatically altered, so quickly… there must be some lesson or something deeper we are supposed to realize.
We all have crises in our personal lives, and each crisis comes to teach us something.
So start by asking yourself… COVID-19, what are you here to teach me?
What are you here to teach our community? What are you here to teach our world?
I think it’s teaching us about the really destructive power of fear. Fear is one of the most destructive negative forces in the world. Particularly, it’s most destructive to the most precious thing in our lives… and that is our RELATIONSHIPS.
When fear takes over — whether in your personal life, in your home or your marriage, or whether it be in the world — it begins to erode our relationships. So we cannot allow fear to reign. We cannot allow fear to get the best of us. We are going to have to seek something greater than fear, that will conquer it. I believe that is SHALOM — PEACE.
So today I pray for you. No fear. Only Peace.
How do we have only peace in this moment, when everything is disrupted? I think there is a kind of inner, personal grieving going on that maybe people have not allowed themselves to articulate as grief.
Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to us? To our families? To our communities? To our world?
How do we get through that with peace?
We need to say to ourselves over and over, nothing can happen to us that we can’t handle. There is NO trial or difficulty that happens to us that is too much for us to bear.
WE CAN HANDLE THIS AND WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS!
That confidence should help to give us peace that we’re going to get through this.
There is a peace of G-d within us, that G-d has placed there for us to connect directly to the source. This is the greatest form of peace there is.
During this time, people of FAITH, as it’s called, are getting tested in a way that they have never before. It’s really easy to feel spiritual in Shul. It’s easy to have faith when things are going well.
Who could imagine that we would live in a time when almost every Synagogue, Church and Mosque in our city — and pretty much the world — is CLOSED, having nothing to do with religious persecution. Because even during those times, synagogues were still open. Now all of our shuls are SHUT! It reminds us that our faith and observance needs to come from something other than a building. The truth is, the Synagogue is not the most important place for a Jew. It’s the home, it’s the dining room table.
An old student of mine, now a respected Rabbi, Avi Katz — pointed out recently that Korbanot / Sacrifices can only be eaten inside the Holy City of Jerusalem; and if they leave the city limits, they become invalid. An exception is Korbon Pesach, the Passover Sacrifice, which must be eaten at home, and becomes invalid if it leaves the house. Before there was a Holy Temple in Jerusalem — before the Jewish people had even left Egypt — they did the Mitzvah of the Passover Sacrifice. That single mitzvah, performed in their homes, made their homes so holy that for each family, their own home was like the Holy City which the holy sacrifice is forbidden to depart from. How much more so now: doing so many mitzvot in our homes, our homes become for us a sacred space.
The Rebbe would say that your faith and your peace needs to come from your Mitzvah, which comes from the root Tzavta: Connection. We are able to connect ourselves to our source, just with the Mitzvot we do, and we can do those in our own homes.
I know the stress level is so high right now. People are always saying that they want to spend more time with their families; maybe they didn’t want all of this time. Everything now is at a higher pitch.
We can come out of this better than we were by allowing these trials and tests to bring out the best in us. Either you get better or you get bitter.
We can grow our characters through this. Instead of making it all about ourselves, we can focus on those in need during this time. We can reach out and connect with others through technology.
COVID-19 is something we can’t see and we can’t understand. We can’t understand enough at this point to be able to get rid of it. This speaks to the fact that we need to be humble. Some of us are too arrogant about our wealth and power. It’s incredible that the greatest wealth, the greatest power, the greatest military can’t stand up to a tiny virus that can only be seen under a microscope. Think about that a moment….
This morning, Rabbi Moshe New said that the greatest kindness is that most of us are staying inside for others, not for ourselves.
Right now we need each other and we need ourselves. Our humility. We need to be grateful for the simplest things; maybe all of the things we used to take for granted. Health… now we get up every day and say Modeh Ani… Thank G-d for our health.
Let’s focus on what we can control. What’s in our control instead of what’s not in our control. Looking at the things that are meaningful in our lives. Now we are forced to be together and spend quality time together. We need to take a deep breath and realize that this is an incredible opportunity to have a HARD RESET.
This is an incredible opportunity for change. Our lives are so busy, we rarely if ever have a moment to STOP.
Right now, we are isolated in our homes. Instead of binge watching Netflix and fighting, take this time to look within and find your purpose.
You may never have another opportunity for a HARD reset. Now is the time!
Instead of asking “what do I need?” ask yourself, “what am I needed for?”
Look at those you love and remember what you truly love about them. Take this as an opportunity to grow.
My new definition of LOVE is when you choose to be at your best when others are not at their best.
Right now we have the opportunity to be at our best when everyone is not at their best.
My prayer for you is for protection against things we cannot see… We don’t know what the future will hold. May we have provided for us what we need and not what we want. May we have the emotional strength to deal with this crisis. May we have personal peace, embrace peace, and share that peace with others.
In this season of our Redemption, may we finally be truly FREE from our homes and that which limits who we are and our potential.
Rabbi Yisroel Bernath