Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:

We miss you! This is strange, so bizarre… It is hard to get used to yet it has now been ongoing for us in the shul community since the middle of March. Who could have known? Who could have foreseen that our lives would be made topsy-turvy with changes, lockdowns, restrictions, and precautions we could never have anticipated?

I am not the first to say this but the current COVID-19 crisis that we are all experiencing is unlike anything we have ever encountered. When I consider the different disasters, hardships or tragedies that have befallen us in our lifetimes, I come to the (common) conclusion that this is far more sweeping, far more encompassing and by far, more intrusive than anything else that comes to mind.

If you are part of my generation – even a little older or a little younger — you would have witnessed and been part of many life-altering or memory-piercing incidents that are permanently scorched into your mind’s everlasting “file cabinet.” As I look back, I recall with much emotion and trepidation such events as the Kennedy assassination; the start of, and the unfolding of the 6-Day War in Israel; the Challenger and Columbia disasters; the Yom Kippur War; September 11th, 2001 and its aftermath and ongoing impact on the world; and many other news events and calamities.

But in spite of the manner in which so many of the aforementioned episodes have affected us, none has truly captured us in the way this COVID-19 epidemic has. None of the previously mentioned occurrences has shut down life and the way we conduct ourselves so fully and in such an isolating and insulating way.

Human beings crave and thrive on interaction with other human beings. We require human touch and flourish on actual contact and intimate communication with others. The lack of the same brings about angst, insecurity, and in many cases, sadness and sorrow. We are creations who need to relate to, and constantly mingle with others.

Under these harrowing circumstances, the best we can do is reach back for the endurance and resilience with which HaKadosh Baruch Hu, (Almighty G-d) has imbued in us and rely on the notion of hope which guides us in circumstances of melancholy and despair. The distress we feel will not totally leave or be exorcised but it may diminish in its scope and our general outlook could be raised or partially repaired as we work hard to deal with NOT dealing with others.

One manner of combating the “COVID-19 quarantine depression” is to take the extra time we may find, (when not permitted participation or mundane travel to ordinary, routine locations) to delve into various forms of Torah study which we may have overlooked previously.

With the current nightly B’nai Shalom review and analysis of a single Mishna of Pirke Avot (the Ethics of Our Fathers) by various shul members every session (for approximately the past four months) we, as a shul have pushed forward in the most impressive and devoted way with the study of this area of Jewish learning. I would therefore recommend to others the private, individually-paced study of Pirkei Avot (in English — if helpful), for all those who wish to expand their horizons, deepen their understanding of the commitment and values expected of a virtuous person and Jew, and those wishing to make Torah study a regularly-scheduled part of their lives.

In addition, Almighty G-d has typically presented us with solutions to problems even as we discover the problems befalling us in more serious ways and with greater frequency.

Our Heavenly Creator has blessed us with many gifts, strengths and characteristics which we may need to rely on for combating the “stay-at-home” blues. Our memory banks are treasure chests filled with mental pictures and vivid portrayals of wonderful times spent with our families and friends. Looking at old pictures and photo albums and sharing them with those whom we ARE permitted to be with, can conjure up wonderful feelings of joy and pleasure.

Recalling even WITHOUT the visual aids great times spent on trips, on vacations, traveling, or special holiday time with family can uplift individuals as the encounters are shared and described in loving detail with those whom the memories may have originally been created.

The following may or may not be helpful in warding off the COVID-19 quarantine rules and precautions but I share with you the wisdom of our nineteenth U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, who had MORE than his share of sadness and tragedies in his lifetime. Lincoln came to the conclusion and observed that: “Most folks are just about as happy as they allow themselves to be”. What a powerful and insightful analysis and discovery. And how true. Happiness is, in so many ways and at so many points, really a choice. How happy will I allow myself to be?

Often easier said than done yet knowing that this is a challenge that needs to be overcome, there can be hope in the recognition that this, as with ALL trials, tribulations, and tests, can and WILL be dealt with and defeated.

With Hashem’s help, we hope and pray that the triumph over this most recent heartache and hardship will soon be in our sights and we will have endured and succeeded even in this ordeal.

With Torah blessings for good health, safety, and wellbeing,

Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin

With Torah blessings to all and the hope that we can SOON see each other IN PERSON,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin