It’s been six months since COVID-19 was unleashed and our lives became instantly unrecognizable. Like everyone else, I did everything in my power to avoid the virus, but alas, when G-d decrees it’s your turn, nothing helps. And I guess G-d finally decided it was my time.
It was toward the end of summer that I started feeling weak. First a headache and a fever, and I didn’t think much of it. It was only when I performed the havdalah service for my family after Shabbat that I realized it might be COVID. I made the blessings over the fragrant spices as I do every week (we smell the spices to comfort the soul which is saddened by the departure of the “extra soul” it receives for the duration of Shabbat), but when I tried to smell them, nothing registered.
At first I thought there was something wrong with the spices, but when I saw my wife and children smelling them as usual, I realized I must actually have COVID.
I ended up extremely weak for 10 days, mostly in bed, with fever, chills, headache, stomach ache, general loss of appetite and noticeable weakness. Although I didn’t lose my sense of taste, many of the foods I previously enjoyed suddenly tasted terrible to me. I couldn’t stand to drink my morning coffee which I usually love. Same with my breakfast yogurt and other favorites. I had to stick to bland foods like toast and dry pretzels to get through.
I quarantined for the full time required and miraculously no one else in my family caught it. Thank G-d, I had a relatively mild case and recovered quickly. I tested negative and was able to come out and rejoin the world before the summer was even over.
But I couldn’t stop thinking that there must be a lesson here that can help us with our Divine service.
Most of us take the small things in life for granted, things like taste and smell. Every morning I drink my coffee, enjoy it greatly, but that’s it. I don’t think much about it, I don’t feel particularly awed or overly grateful. I move on with my day.
G-d gives us these small gifts on a daily basis, and we can easily fall into the trap of taking them for granted. Waking up each morning is a gift from G-d. Every breath of air we breathe is a gift. There are blessings we recite each morning, acknowledging and thanking G-d for opening our eyes, for waking us, for enabling us to go to the bathroom, for giving us strength… if we really pay attention to what we are saying each day, we will become accustomed to thanking Him for even the tiniest things.
The Hebrew acronym for the upcoming year of 5781, which we have just begun, is “פלאות אראנו” which means “I will show you miracles!” May G-d shower us all with revealed and recognizable miracles, and may the new year bring tremendous blessing upon all of us, most urgently an end to the terrible coronavirus. I’m already feeling the positive energy of the new year; I’m certain that very soon we’ll see those miracles!
G’mar Chatima Tova!
Rabbi Uriel Vigler