In Virus Time, What To Do

I. Our minds and thoughts: We are confused: When will it end? Whom should we believe in the tidal wave of words in the media? Which scientists? What do the numbers really mean?

Sometimes we feel guilty. If we are healthy, stable, and well supplied with gloves, masks, and sanitizer, we think of those people in hospitals, or who have died, or who have no access or money to get these vital protective items. We are fearful: What if, despite our vigilance, we slip up and test positive? What if we lose our job, our house? (For people of that age, the depth of the fear is similar to December 1, 1969 — the date of the Vietnam War draft lottery.)

II. Filling the long hours: What are we doing with ourselves and families? Filling time by dusting off and opening boxes with every board game; opening decks of cards to play cyber-bridge; reading Goodnight Moon and Amelia Bedelia for the 100th time to the little ones; learning magic tricks and taking cyber art lessons to keep them entertained and positive; doing zoom Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and various breathing, relaxation, and exercise, techniques; reading all the 19th Century Russian novels on the shelf since your sophomore year when you changed majors from literature to anthropology. (But pass on any of the bestsellers on how to cope. They’re just that “bestsellers”, no more; learning Happy Birthday in Spanish
(“Feliz cumpleaños a ti,”) or Latin (“beatus natalis tibi”) for variety when washing your hands for 20 seconds for the 14th time today); downloading books and more books, music and more music to iPhones and tablets; learning to make ice cream, enchiladas, ghee, skyr, and cholent; cleaning, scrubbing the apartment or house as if it were the day before Passover; watching The 10 Commandments again and making fun of the mispronunciations of the Hebrew names (e.g., Moses’ mother “Jochebed” [accent 1st syllable], instead of Yocheved [accent 2nd syllable]); and intermittently staring into space, daydreaming, tinkering, and potching around.

III. More on filling the hours: There are “higher” things to do than just keeping ourselves busy. For these, you might use your specific talents or strike out into new areas for the sake of the Mitzvah of doing for others: If we do go out, e.g., to the the bakery, buying cookies for the firefighters, EMT’s, police, people at the post office, mail carrier, food delivery drivers – with a thank-you note; designing cyber-good wishes, miss you, and zoll zein gezunt cards and sending them; on FaceTime or Zoom, take a picture of the person on the other end, and, if you are good or OK sketching – even a cartoon – of him or her, scan it, and send it; and Lord knows how many ways a musician can make life better through cyberspace.

And a simple BIG MITZVAH: E-MAIL TO OR FACETIME AND ZOOM WITH FRIENDS AND OLD FRIENDS. “Out of the blue” is usually most effective.

A. Rav said: Mitzvahs were given to bring people together. (Leviticus Rabba 13:3) [This is not the original meaning, but rather my free translation.]

B. Rabbi Levi said, Whoever thinks to himself or herself before going to sleep at night, “When I wake up tomorrow, I will do good things for X”, That person will ultimately share great joy with The Good People in the Future, in the Next World, as the verse states, “….For those who plan good, there is joy.” (Proverbs 12:20) (Midrash Mishlay (Proverbs) 12:1, Visotzky text)

IV. Study Torah. At any time day or night, 24 hours a day, someone is teaching wonderful Zoom-Torah. Here is an opportunity to fill in whatever you feel is missing in your Jewish education. (And if you are not particularly skilled in cyber-searching, contact any 8-year-old for help!)

IV. Time to give Tzedakah

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A. Empty your Tzedakah box and take a thorough review of your overall financial situation to calculate how much more will be available to give.

B. When calculating your available Tzedakah money, consider the following text, for which there are many reasons:  Rabbi Avira taught — sometimes in the name of Rabbi Ammi – If a person sees that his or her [financial] resources are limited, he or she should use them for Tzedakah, and so much the more so when he or she has great [financial] resources. (Gittin 7a)

C. Do your research to find the most inspiring, trustworthy, effective, and efficient individuals (Mitzvah heroes), groups, and Mitzvah projects for your Tzedakah money. There are trustworthy people available to help you figure where your $18, $180, or even $1800 can be best used and not a penny of which would be wasted.

D. Do not be intimidated by the word trillions in the media. Whatever money you give, be assured that it does make a difference in someone else’s life. Here is a useful article, written by Arnie Draiman, helping to explain how to do C and D, in the Jerusalem Post.

About the Author
Danny Siegel is a well-known author, lecturer, and poet who has spoken in more than 500 North American Jewish communities on Tzedakah and Jewish values, besides reading from his own poetry. He is the author of 29 1/2 books on such topics as Mitzvah heroism practical and personalized Tzedakah, and Talmudic quotes about living the Jewish life well. Siegel has been referred to as "The World's Greatest Expert on Microphilanthropy", "The Pied Piper of Tzedakah", "A Pioneer Of Tzedakah", and "The Most Famous Unknown Jewish Poet in America."
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