Coronavirus reflections

While this was not the first time I’ve faced the prospect of a Shabbat at home and relatively alone, this certainly was the first time (and hopefully the last!) that it was for this reason.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to note that all of the focus we now have about the fear of contagion and the need to be exceedingly careful with what we touch and with whom we are in close contact – brings to life the Torah proscriptions about tum’ah and ta’hara (ritual “purity” and “impurity”) during the Temple era.

It is a lifestyle that imposed myriads of constraints on what one could or could not touch where one could and could not go – and who one was allowed to come in contact with.

Those Halachot go far beyond the constraints of these few lines. Still, in a nutshell, “tum’ah” (impurity) is indicative of room for spiritual improvement in the person that, relative to its magnitude, imposes some level of isolation on the person afflicted.

That isolation was intended to create a virtual “space” – where the process of healing that internal spiritual injury could begin.

It cannot be a coincidence that this very Shabbat was Parshat Parah. This Shabbat we read of the Red Heifer and how the very process of purification from “tum’ah” is completed!

Our Sages (as early as King Solomon) refer to Parshat Parah as the quintessential paradox – the process was מטהר את הטמאין ומטמא את הטהורין – it purified the impure and made the impure pure.

This Shabbat, I think I’ve begun to understand it just a little.

On the one hand, isolation is to be discouraged. We called upon, as Jews and as humans, to interact, to reach out, to help, to change the world we live in, for the better.

On the other hand, there are positive elements to being alone. From time to time, we need to create space, to be able to quietly and purposefully look inside of ourselves and “fix” whatever it is that needs fixing.

We didn’t plan to be cooped up alone – but we are. There are a world of good things we can do – let’s!

Here are some suggestions!

  1. 10 Tips for Preparing for Shabbat While Social Distancing
  2. Six Things You Can Do About Coronavirus
  3. How to Pray the Shabbat Prayers at Home

And here is more

The Coronavirus Outbreak Resources, Inspiration and Guidance


Please stay well, stay safe, and have a beautiful week!


Yisrael Deren
Senior Rabbi
Chabad Stamford​​​ 

About the Author
Yisrael Deren serves as Regional Director of Chabad Lubavitch in Connecticut and Senior Rabbi of Chabad of Stamford. Born in Davenport Iowa, raised in Pittsburgh, and educated under the Rebbe's supervision in Brooklyn and Israel, he, together with his wife Aviva, have been Shluchim of the Rebbe for close to 50 years.