Many families all over the world are saying, “Here we go again.” Yes, another variant of COVID-19 is closing schools and daycare centers, and parents like me are scrambling to figure out how we are supposed to take care of our little kiddos at home while simultaneously working, helping our spouses stay sane, and being good Jews.
I’ve put work on hold, yet again, in order for my wife to successfully do what she does while my kiddos are in quarantine. This time, at least, we both are fully vaccinated and boosted and don’t have the trepidation and anxiety we previously had. Instead of fearing the unknown, we already know what to expect.
My boys love working on things, problem solving, and actively using their hands. So they help me around the house. They know that Abba is the Home Repair Ninja (that’s my blog), and that they’re well on their way to becoming little ninjas too. This passes the time, keeps them out of trouble, and allows me to get a couple things done in the process.
When times get tough, and I wonder if this pandemic (in all its forms and variants) is ever going to end, I remember what the Torah has to say on the matter.
Midrash Tanchuma (Vayetzei 2:1) reveals that Yaakov Avinu (Jacob our Patriarch) saw the guardian angels of the non-Jewish nations during his famous dream of the ladder (See Bereshit 28:12). The Midrash says that each angel ascended a certain number of rungs before descending. This foreshadowed the number of years that each nation would prevail over the Jewish People before being toppled. Yaakov saw the angel of Bavel rise 70 rungs before coming back down. Then, the angel of Madai went up 52 rungs and descended. Next came the angel of Yavan. This one went up 100 rungs before coming down.
Lastly, Yaakov saw the angel of Edom ascending, but he never saw it go down. Yaakov was terrified that it would never fall, and he cried out to Hashem. At that moment, the Almighty told Yaakov there was no need to fear. Although it looked like the angel of Edom would ascend all the way to Hashem’s holy throne, Hashem promised that it too would be cast down like the rest of the nations that tried to rule over the Jews.
Each of the ascents and descents discussed in the Midrash symbolize the four exiles the Jewish People have undergone and how long they lasted. The fourth and final exile is the one we are currently in. Yaakov cried out to Hashem because, to him, it had no end in sight. Nevertheless, Hashem promised that He would bring an end to it. Hashem was teaching Yaakov Avinu that no matter how dark times got or how bleak things appeared to be, the Jewish nation would be taken out of exile.
I am convinced that this applies to us as well. All of us experience exile differently, and it does not always manifest itself as a physical removal from our land. There are times that we face struggles that appear endless and insurmountable. Like the angel of Edom perpetually ascending the ladder, the agony feels endless. These tribulations, in my opinion, are our own personal pieces of exile. Being in quarantine yet again is just another fragment of it (albeit a small one).
Whether one has an easier or harder time navigating the pandemic is really irrelevant – we are all having a tough time. What matters is how we view it and what we do about it.
May we all merit to help one another during these difficult times and to see the fulfillment of Hashem’s promise – not merely the end of the pandemic, but also the end of our exile.