The sun rejuvenates me as it shines through my window. I look out at the various shades of green and yellow leaves hanging precariously to their tree. The buzz of a motorbike, the rhythmic whir of a bus, the smooth gliding of a car and an intermittent siren is heard. I could be describing a regular day this past week where we Jerusalemites are experiencing a mellow winter so far.
Yet it is the eve of our third real lockdown. I should be doing a grocery run. But I would rather stay home and bask in the comfort of the sun — a much needed life giving source right now. We’ve been through two lockdowns already so why am I so uneasy about this one? I’ve shared many a shabbat with my candles and have become quite accustomed to staying home.
What’s occupying me most are my thoughts. Clearly I am not understanding what G-d is trying to tell me. We’re all in this together for better or for worse. I’m frustrated at the lack of integrity, compassion, and authenticity of leadership worldwide. Instead, I am forced to examine my own behavior, as I surely can’t change anyone else’s.
I need to confront what lies ahead — four more weeks of lockdown. I feel numb. With plenty contact to my social network, I certainly won’t be entirely cut off. Plus if I really need to see another living being up close and personal, (2 meters away of course), I can reach out to my trusty neighbors. I can’t foretell what each day will bring and the thought of checking the news is already unnerving as it has proven to be daily. Who knows what is fact and what is fiction anymore? All I know is that only G-d knows what is in store for us, and He certainly isn’t giving me any clues other than the world seems to be in a much worse off position than it has been during my lifetime.
This is not the time to be an arm-chair critic, nor to whine, to judge others or to be angry. But its much easier to do that. I can’t seem to escape hearing about peoples’ difficulties they are experiencing. So I want to focus on the good for just a moment, things that mainstream media don’t report on.
I posted a quick message on Facebook asking people to share positive acts they had experienced or witnessed in the last few days. Within minutes my cousin’s son responded sharing that his uncle who is at an assisted living center was chatting to a nurse and shared that he doesn’t have tefillin and would really like to have a pair of his own. Soon after, someone came to Beit Finger and presented him with both a tallis and tefillin. Staring at the photo sent to me is a man who is as ecstatic, thrilled and delighted as I have ever seen.
The next story I received was forwarded by a friend. I can’t verify the original sender but here it comes: “My brother lives in Yerushalayim and just got the Pfizer vaccine. When the lady asked me which arm I wanted to take it in, I said left. So she said, and I am not making this up, “I would recommend getting it in the non-tefillin arm. Putting tefillin on the injection site might be uncomfortable and disturb your kavana.” (concentration)
The the first two stories received both center around tefillin. Like most mitzvot in the Torah, many reasons and deep meanings for what we are commanded to do can be found. As I am not familiar with the laws of tefillin, a quick online search gave me the answer I needed to hear: The hand-tefillin is strapped onto one’s non-dominant arm, with a box resting on the bicep, facing the heart. The rest of the strap is then wound around the arm seven times, extending down to the long finger. The head-tefillin is placed on the forehead mid center with that box in the center facing toward one’s heart. This binds the head, (thoughts) the heart, (emotions), the arm (action).
The Torah refers to Tefillin four times in different places, each with varying emphasis: “i) To remember the miracles G‑d did for us when He took us out of Egypt, ii) to teach this to our children, iii) to understand that G‑d alone has the power and dominion to do whatever He wants in the physical and spiritual worlds and iv) G-d assures us of reward when we observe the mitzvahs He commanded us.”
As I glance at the sun turning into a dusty pink, melding into the pool of sky above, I feel more comforted than ever. I just need to remind myself like the two tefillin stories that my if thoughts are positive, reflecting my faith, then my actions and emotions will be too.