Now that the coronavirus buying frenzy has temporarily subsided in our household, I took notice of an interesting phenomenon unfolding at week’s end. Although Fridays are routinely marked by some last-minute food shopping and final preparations to ‘get everything done’ before the onset of Shabbat, this Friday was different. With Pesach peeking over the horizon, I could not resist asking a Mah Nishtana, why was this Friday different from all other Fridays?
Homebound and with no place to go, no people to see, and nothing to do, my wife Bobbie and I felt only the urgency of doing nothing. No synagogue services, no visiting neighbors, no welcoming guests, only well-worn stacks of books, resting on bookshelves, to accompany us. What we discovered was that everything we could not do, opened the doors to a host of things we could do.
Absent the usual distractions of daily life, we leisurely bandied about observations and insights into articles, books, people and politics, over cups of coffee. We discovered that with nothing to do and nowhere to go there was time enough to read, to write, to think, to discuss, to muse, and Motzei Shabbat I even found time to replace a burned-out light bulb.
The weekdays were no different. The media induced hysterics of the impending apocalypse eventually became mundane and binge watching a series became the order of the day. With no rush to get things done, and no errands to run, we pumped the brakes on our self-induced urgency of activities and embraced the luxury of spending time together, with no distractions, no diversions all the while living life in slow motion.
It was also a time of discovery. We discovered that angels do in fact exist because two of them contacted us, not from heaven but from the neighborhood. They were not the celestial beings with wings but Menches made of flesh and blood, our young friends Ellen and Gary. Knowing my wife and I are members of the vulnerable generation, they volunteered to do our Passover shopping for us. That evening they alighted upon our doorstep where they discretely deposited bags of Passover groceries; that’s what angels do.
What we have learned, during these trying times, that acts of loving kindness need not be born upon the wings of angels, those blessings can be administered by the outstretched arms of those who tend to the welfare of others. Thus we found the answer to the question of – what can we do when there is nothing to do.