Uriel Vigler

Have You Tested?

If you’ve been out in the streets recently, you’re sure to have seen the endless lines that stretch all the way around the block (and further!) at every testing site in this city. Wait times are longer than at any other point during the past two years, as the Omicron variant sweeps through the country, infecting people at a rate far higher and quicker than anything we’ve seen.

Are you positive or negative? That is the question on everyone’s lips.

Want to travel? Test before you go, test when you arrive. Been exposed to someone? Test. Not sure if your kids can go back to school? Test. Think you might need to quarantine? Test. Have a headache, cough, cold, fever? Test, test, test, test.

It seems we are in an endless cycle of testing and retesting ourselves, but there must be something valuable—a deeper lesson—we can extract from this testing obsession.

Every day we are supposed to test ourselves. It’s called a “cheshbon hanefesh” – an accounting of the soul. In fact, it’s part of the extended Shema we say before bed every evening: “Master of the Universe, forgive me for my sins…” But when was the last time we stopped to actually contemplate those words?

When did we actually go through our day, and screen for spiritual viruses? Am I infected with “bad mood” or “chronic irritation” or “upset with the world”? I must test and get rid of it, since the Torah commands us to serve G-d with joy.

Do I have an ailment called, “don’t really like people with opposing views”? If so, I need to treat it so that tomorrow I can get back into the world and embrace my fellow Jews regardless of their opinions. Until I can manage that, I need to quarantine.

When you hop into bed every night, test yourself. Ponder: Am I inspired? Do I feel spiritually energized? Let me make sure tomorrow I will eat only kosher food, put on tefillin in the morning, and have kosher mezuzot installed on my doorposts.

Every day we need to plan how to do more mitzvot and be more spiritually connected than we were the day before.

And if we feel like we’ve failed the test, then let’s do some contact tracing.

Retrace your steps and find the person you shared your lousy mood with yesterday, and make sure this time they feel your warmth.

Retrace your steps and stop in at shul, if last time you walked right past.

Retrace your steps and make sure that the next time a mitzvah comes your way, you grab it!

The Omicron variant spreads 70 times faster than the others. So we need to up our game. We need to increase 70-fold in joy, mitzvot, and spirituality. We need 70 times more people lining up to pray in shul; 70 times more people banging on the doors of nonprofits asking to give charity.

Ask yourself: Are you positive? Are you happy? Do you feel inspired? Are you ready to go out and do mitzvot? If so, you can exit your quarantine. And when you do so, please infect everyone around you with your warmth, your smile, your laughter, and ask them to join you in doing a mitzvah and spreading joy.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author
Zimbabwean-born Rabbi Uriel Vigler has been directing the Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side of Manhattan together with his wife Shevy since 2005. In addition, he founded Belev Echad which helps wounded IDF soldiers. He has a weekly blog on current events. He is the proud father of eight children (including triplets) and leads a very young, vibrant and dynamic community.
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