“This is a test. This is a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. This is only a test…” When I was growing up, that’s what we would ominously hear late at night on television with a test pattern on the screen. Then a long piercing tone would sound.
Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the test. We can pass or we can fail, it’s our choice. You think you can’t handle what’s now in front of us, but you can, because you have been studying for this test your whole life.
I am not talking about whether or not you get the coronavirus. I am talking about the test of our middot, our character, as we face this new reality together. The virus may physically harm a small percentage of us, and yet, how we deal with it could destroy our most important relationships. For most of us, our lives are not on the line, but our marriages, our relationships with our children, and our communities are. The virus, G-d willing, will eventually pass, but our homes and societies may not survive unless we choose to lead with the best part of ourselves.
Outside of our homes, we can choose to push and hoard and be selfish, or we can be other-focused, generous and kind. In this new reality where we are not allowed to touch people physically, we can consciously choose to touch them in other ways—with a kind word, a supportive smile, a helping hand.
Inside our homes, we are making memories. Years from now, our kids will be telling their kids about the time the world was fighting a pandemic and people were homebound. Memories will either be how we were at each other’s throats, or how we put on plays, built forts, played marathon Settlers of Catan, learned an instrument online, cleaned out the garage, gave away stuff to the poor, FaceTimed grandparents and cousins, and made a family song.
We cannot control world events, but we can control how we respond to them. Your children, your spouse, your co-workers, and your neighbors are watching you. Don’t wait for someone else to set the bar of faith, optimism and strength. You set it.
And because we are the Jewish people, and we were charged with a mission at Mt. Sinai to be a Light Unto the Nations, the world is watching us. Jewish communities must not only be compliant with regulations; they must go above and beyond. Israel has been leading others in setting the bar of stringency in regulating this crisis and we need to be a nation that continues to lead with our moral character as we get through this together.
What can each one of us do to make a world of difference for others?
Deliver groceries to elderly neighbors who are scared or unable to leave their homes. Order takeaway from kosher restaurants that are suffering from a lack of business. Check in with aging loved ones by calling them every day. Please add your own ideas in the comments. Together, we can inspire one another during this time of need.
Ma Tovu….“How goodly are your tents, Jacob.” That is what other nations said when they saw Jewish homes of harmony, love, and humility. Let us pass this test together, inside and outside of our tents, so that our families, and all nations, will not only survive, but thrive. And may we be blessed to hear the loud piercing sound of a shofar, announcing a world of unity, truth, and light.