The world has largely been brought to a standstill. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in ICU at a London hospital and thousands of New Yorkers are dying in the US. Police patrol outside stopping everyone who does not have a clear reason to be beyond the allotted 100 meters. Today, the restrictions will further tighten: A full curfew and lockdown countrywide over Passover and a ban of city to city movements travel. The last time such a general lockdown over the Jewish people took place may have been during the Exodus story itself. We are living in unprecedented times; Nevertheless, with a glimmer of hope.
City closures started after Bnei Brak was put into lockdown earlier this week and a government compromise took effect to put everyone under lockdown rather than single out the Haredi population. Despite having far higher infection rates, as of time of writing, most of the deaths have been Secular Israelis.
However, Coronavirus changes has affected life even more profoundly than a simple list of restrictions. Already for months am used to being indoors even before Coronavirus due to a medical operation, it has now become a way of life. I teach digitally, I exercise digitally, I talk to friends from Canada and the USA as easily as my friends in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The trip to the supermarket is considered a major daily highlight. Like a post-apocalyptic adventure film when we are finally allowed outdoors, it will be strange and likely never completely the same.
We begin to appreciate certain friendships and people. For a change we cannot do whatever we choose but are controlled by the situation. We must do what we are told and have a certain faith in G-d that the situation will turn out for the better. All said with a fear that there can always be a second wave. Only a gradual return can effectively work and only with proper safeguards. There may be a ban for months in entering and leaving the country and we must learn to be more self-sufficient. One major outcome of Coronavirus is an appreciation of what it means to belong to our country, for it is our country that will safeguard us and come to our aide during such critical times.
A financial toll over society is inevitable. Debts will almost certainly become worse and a deflation trend may start, threatening a wave that can lead to an economic depression. No amount of bailouts will compensate the physical hibernation of the human race and affecting the capitalistic logic of supply and demand. What may follow is a new need for a market “hibernation” mechanism forcing companies to have a contingency fund for future emergencies. Debt financing has limits and a society built on such is unhealthy. Relying on a backup plan or being prepared for emergency will be far more successful approach than waiting for future bailouts.
However, it is an interesting coincidence that Passover itself will be under full lockdown, the only day to be so. In a parallel to the story in Exodus, we will for the most part be in our homes with the ones closest to us with the angel of death outside hovering around. There will not be any lamb blood to put on the door posts but rather a police patrol to make sure we physically stay home. Nevertheless, the feeling will be similar. While many Israelis traditionally travel this time of year, virtually everyone will be at home. The surreal feeling of a nation together at home having the sacred meal will almost certainly bring us closer to our roots and heritage as Jews. We will now be forced to do what we should be doing every year: having a Passover Seder.
This holiday drives another theme home: G-d is above us and the director of events. The virus will almost certainly pass us. News of cures and vaccines in development have gripped the news. The Dow Jones Industrial average in New York is rising despite the news of thousands of deaths a day and a feeling that the virus is contained is in the air. However the biggest theme this Passover may very well be the turning of the tide against Coronavirus. For before Passover we were trapped, now we will (gradually) start to be free again into a new reality.