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03/19/2020 03:45:00 PM


Jordan Hiller

Disclaimer: I may be wrong and I don’t know what to believe. Like this toilet paper thing. Why is it the product to stock up on? No one can explain it to me other than that it’s what everyone thinks they need to stock up on. So, I haven’t bought any, but I may be wrong (and might be soon asking if you can spare a square). And the lines for food. Is it because of the rumored military enforced quarantine that was supposed to start on Sunday? Or the one that was supposed to start on Monday? Or Tuesday? Or yesterday. I haven’t waited on a really long line for food yet, so I feel like I’m missing out, but someone said the military enforced quarantine will start tomorrow. But, then again, I don’t know what to believe. And, I may be wrong, but isn’t waiting on line with a lot of people so you can go into a store with a lot of people and wrestle them for canned beans kinda dangerous? Aren’t we supposed to social distance? Isn’t behaving in a way that might make us perish in order to buy non-perishables counter intuitive? Yeah, I know we need food, but does it need to be from Gourmet Glatt? Did I miss a memo from the CDC?

They say this is going to last a while. That it may run into May. Or even through August. Some say it’s bound for more than a year. But I don’t know what to believe. Things definitely don’t feel the same. Of all the crazy things I’ve asked Yitz to design over the years, never thought it would come to his combining a doctor holding a booster shot and a multi-colored pencil to make the “V” for something called The YINW Vacczine. Never thought the shul would be shut. That all shuls would be shut. Some say they shouldn’t be, but I don’t know. I may be wrong, but it seems a question of pikuach nefesh. The Torah says we are supposed to do mitzvot and v’chai bahem, through them live! The other side will argue that our davening and learning in shul is the only way to cure the disease, or end the plague, or appease Hashem who is so clearly judging us. But, really, I don’t know what to believe. Some even may still be saying that the media is manipulating us and the virus is not that dangerous. I may be wrong, but better safe than sorry at this early stage. Listen, I love getting together with friends and family as much as anyone, but if I could at all prevent killing one of them by accident, I’d like to try.
Epilogue: I have been fortunate enough to read the book of Kohelet in our shul a few times (and even more fortunate to have heard Rabbi Barry Dov Schwartz speak about it is so profoundly this past Sukkot). One theme that I am always cognizant of as I go through life – and it applies today as well – is Ein kol chadash tachat ha-shemesh. There is nothing new under the sun. We will look at what is happening today and say “Nothing has ever been like this before!” “It is unprecedented!” Well, it may not have happened in our lifetimes and not in the exact same way. But it’s happened before. Shlomo Ha-Melech’s words are meant to put us in our place. In terms of our propensity to self-center and feel like we were the first to do a certain thing, make a bold statement, or feel a particular way. But it also serves to tell us that this has all happened before…and we are still here. In a way, it’s a reproof and a comfort. Nothing is new so don’t think the world won’t go on in the face of an unforeseen development. In a way it is even saying to the novel coronavirus that you are not as novel as you think. Nothing is.

A pasuk from the book that I hardly ever think about is the final one. Sof Davar HaKol Nishma, Et Ha’Elokim Yera Ve’Et Mitzvotav Shemor, Ki Zeh Kol Ha’Adam, The sum of the matter, when all is considered: Fear Hashem and observe His commandments, for that is man’s whole duty.

I never think about this pasuk because, in contrast to the rest of the megillah, it’s generic and simplistic (and also because my YU Bible teacher told me it was added in post-production). The Book of Kohelet isn’t meant to be awkwardly wrapped up in the end with a tidy bow. I may be wrong, but it doesn’t feel right.

However, my attempt at satire above should come with one – because, as Rabbi Miller wrote about yesterday, for some people things are very rough.

The sum of the matter, when all is considered: Realize that Hashem runs the world. Be safe, be smart, take care of your families and neighbors as best you can, for that is man's whole duty.

By: Jordan Hiller

Mon, June 27 2022 28 Sivan 5782