Not Like anything else before - Covid 19, May 1,2020

Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 12:48 pm


Not Like anything else before - Covid 19, May 1,2020

Mordechai Z. Hecht, - Queens, NY

March 18, 2020 - a day that will go down in infamy. 

It came - and we were commanded to “Shelter in place”. 

Wait what?! 

None ever even heard of such a term. We all jumped to figure this out. We scrambled for a precedent of sorts to grasp what was happening. Immediately we jumped on the Spanish Flu. Sheww. Now we have a president, wonderful! How did that help us? Did it employ us, pay our bills, take care of elderly, provide ventilators, school or shul us?! What ensued were endless press conferences and conflicting statements from our leadership, time and again and gain.

Albeit, knowledge is power and somehow by knowing it’s sorta happened before this gave us some level of comfort thinking that if they survived the world back then, perhaps, maybe, who knows-probably many of us will too. Fast forward May 1st, 2020 - many and most of us did. Amazing! Truly amazing. Miraculous perhaps.

Hundreds of thousands of us didn’t survive. 

Millions were infected and countless lost their lives bitterly and without respite or anything we could do about it.But Millions of us, wait billions of us survived. (ps. The bubonic plague wiped off the face of the earth half of humanity) 

The BlitzKrieg. That was another one I heard bombing day after day - how did they survive, many didn’t and the pain was endless until the war ended and casualties were rallied up and death tolls soared and skyrocketed. Fast forward 2020 and we have endless stories to tell of the Wars back when. 

The great Depression - now this is more like it. Countless people broke, food rationed and no end in sight. The great depression was horrid - the things people did to make a few cents - God save us. But the great depression was real and it took us decades to recover, and the challenges along the ride home were more than something to write home about.

Cholera in 1830’s, the Bubonic Plague in the 1500’s, Hurricane disasters, Floods, Tornadoes discussions on all these fronts served to help us wrap our minds around the insanity of the carnage, destruction and pain and loss.

However, in 2020 we in the US live in a world where we don’t have kings or Totalitarian regemists controlling our lives nor Bubonic plagues for that matter - and even with all the rules and regulations we still have so many freedoms and scores of things to be grateful for.

I don't think people during the Spanish Flu, could possibly have known how their fellow world mates were doing elsewhere in the world at the time as we do with the internet. I also don't believe that they had an inkling of understanding about virology in the way we do today in light of microphysics, nanotechnology and quantum mechanics.

There's a saying in Jewish law, which makes it clear how we adjust and react and rule about something: “Ain Don Dayin Ela Mah Sheaynov Raos” - “a judge can only rule based upon what he sees”. Covid 19 came upon us in an acute way, it hit us like a storm and we reacted the way we knew best - at the time. If, there are responsible institutions or people that should have and could have prepared us and the world for this and they didn't - well for that there will be CSpan and another monotonous months long Senate hearings to prove or disprove what they chose, did or didn't do properly. 

We, however the responding people of the world, be it the governments or Medical world or Rabbinic world, did what they saw fit, at the time, as the best way to address and respond to the emergency and that included and was spearheaded by one idea: Save as many lives as possible - and this is priceless. As Rabbi Dr. Steinberg, master ethicist noted: “NO mitzvah in the entire Torah, nor all the mitzvos combined outweigh this notion and mitzvah - save lives.

Yet, Covid 19 was without a doubt like nothing we ever saw before in history - because we never lived before and because the worlds dynamics were not the same. As professor Leib Abrams once noted: “In Sociology we say, History doesn't repeat itself” - it’s a different time, a different place and different circumstances. We need to stop comparing and sharing it in that way.

In 1918 we didn’t have the hoards of medicines we have or the USS Comfort (or President Trump) or Cell phones or Gas heat and paved roads and highways or Ezpass or Amazon or Walmart and its billion products - at our fingertips.

Never in world history have we ever been locked up like this, never before. That all our Schools and shuls should be shut down and closed - practically world wide- for weeks and months on end - never. If Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Rebbes of the world-of-old would see this, they would shed tears like rivers for it to end sooner.

So no teaching of any teacher or Rebbe for that matter is ultimately what is going to get us back, no YouTube video of the Spanish Flu or Google photo of the 1800’s cholera outbreak or Historical documents and ancient paintings of the Bubonic plague going to do anything real for us today, here and now. 

However, history can be nice and giving and hindsight is 2020, as Reb Zalman always used to say and there is lots we can learn from it but what we need to do now and most of all is: to teach ourselves now our present, and adjust to a new future. Focus on the present and plan ahead for our futures. Work on changing what we can, and let us stop worrying on changing what we can not. Work on ourselves, our health, well being mentally and physically and spiritually. We survived and for this we must be FOREVER grateful. We all have a new lease on life - what are going to do with it.

As parents, siblings and friends, fellow human-aires - what we CAN DO is help one another. Like the first responders and Doctors and nurses worldwide, and the truck drivers and store clerks and pharmacists etc. etc. etc. My only fear somewhat is that many of us are - but many of us have fallen trap to following and bellowing in our sorrows and the darkness of this all - don't let it own you. Get up! Get out! Get going.

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