Every morning we say the Birkot HaTorah, blessings for the Torah that we will study that day. To ensure that we are not making a blessing without fulfilling the mitzvah of Torah study, after the brachot, we read a teaching from the Torah, a teaching from the Mishna and a teaching from the Gemara. Since we recite these short paragraphs each day, they have become very familiar to us and we may take them for granted. During these difficult times, we see how important the passage in The Talmud, Shabbat 127a really is:
These are the precepts whose fruits a person enjoys in this world but whose principal remains intact for him in the world to come.
They are: Kibud Av Va’Em (honoring your parents), Gmilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness), Hashkamat Beit HaMidrash Shacharit v’Aravit (early attendance at the study hall in the morning and in the evening), Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests), Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick), Hachnasat Kallah (providing for a bride), Levayat HaMet (escorting the dead), Iyun Tfila (absorption in prayer), Hava’at Shalom ben Adam L’Chaveiro (bringing peace between man and his fellow) v’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam (Torah study is equivalent to them all).
As we look at this list of basic mitzvot, we realize that right now we are closed out of observing almost all of them in the ways that we have keeping them for our entire lives.
Honoring parents is an issue now as in many cases older parents have been told not to be in physical contact with their children or grandchildren.
Doing acts of loving kindness is also difficult when you can’t get too close to another person or if you are told not to leave your house unless it is an emergency or if you need food.
Attendance at the Beit Midrash and synagogue are now off limits as so most minyanim should be closed down.
We have been instructed not to bring guests into our homes and we can’t go to visit others.
We are forbidden from visiting the sick and hospitals are not allowing visitors to make sure that the germs don’t spread.
Wedding are now limited to almost no guests as it is forbidden to congregate in groups.
Funerals are also limited to very close family and shiva houses are not open to the public.
Which mitzvoth from the list can we focus on?
We can try to have greater intent in prayer, even when it is not with a minyan, keeping the peace in our households and taking the opportunity to studyTorah.
How has Israel been managing without being able to fulfill the basic mitavot of loving kindness?
Calling parents that we can’t visit, making sure that their basic needs are cared for through caregivers and deliveries.
Staying out of synagogues and Batei Midrash for the short term so that we can help get this difficult situation cleared up on the sooner side. Some segments of the population have not yet come to grips with such a difficult lifestyle change, but it needs to be enforced.
Even if we can’t welcome people into our homes or go out to visit the sick, we can call to let them know that we are thinking of them, especially many elderly people who do not use the internet.
Small weddings are literally taking place on street corners and in back yards and are being broadcast on the internet so that friends and family can virtually participate.
Shiva calls have become just that- calls.
There are now virtual minyanim and online interactive Torah classes to keep the communities connected.
May we return to the time that we can freely observe all of these mitzvoth as they were meant to be observed.