June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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A Year Later, a Letter to COVID

We are just about to mark the first “yahrzeit” of COVID-19. (Unfortunately, it is still very much here …. but you know what I mean). So here’s my eulogy, a year later.

Dear Mr. COVID,

It is hard to believe that only a year has passed since we met you close-up. You feel so much a part of my life. Wherever I go, I see people thinking and talking about you. Whenever I put on my face mask or have to go on another Zoom, I think of you.

I remember when you were far away. You had that exotic-sounding name. They called you “Corona.” You were almost like a curiosity; we didn’t know what you were going to look like.

A few weeks before you officially arrived in our lives, I brought Corona beer to our Chabad in Hackensack. We enjoyed it at the kiddush reception.

“Anyone who drinks Corona beer will not have coronavirus,” I joked, and we all laughed.

A few weeks later, no one was laughing.

Schools and workplaces were shut. Everyone was home, and there was an endless stream of sad news: death, illness and overcrowded hospitals. Frankly, wherever you went, you wreaked havoc.

You have changed how people live, travel, work and study. You’ve changed everything.

Now, we all hope, you will be gone soon. Maybe you should take with you some of the “gifts” you brought. Working at home, for example, sounds like an attractive idea on paper. But ask anyone with young kids and a small living space what they think about it. So many of your other “gifts” are not necessary, either.

Still, there are some developments that we will cherish. You taught us to appreciate the underappreciated. You taught us a new perspective of life. You taught us to have patience and think outside the box. And you taught us to once again embrace our homes.

You see, your yahrzeit is right around when we read in the Torah how God told Moses: “They shall make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in them.” The sages point out that God does not say, “I will dwell in it,” but, “I will dwell in them.” Because while God expects us to build a massive, communal sanctuary, he also asks and empowers us to build our own holy place.

For so many years, the “Jewish stuff” has been relegated to synagogues and study halls. We prayed in the synagogues; we attended Torah classes in academic institutions; and we participated in the communal holiday celebrations at community centers.

That’s great, but that’s not how God designed it.

He wanted us to create our own sanctuaries, and not solely to rely on the community. To have holiness in our own homes and spaces. And because of you, we have done exactly that.

A few months after you came and messed up our lives, a religious Jew told me: “I never knew that I could pray at home with as much devotion as I did in the synagogue. I always relied on the ambiance, on the people next to me, on the singing. And here I was alone at home, rediscovering God in a new way.”

He is not the only one.

This past Rosh Hashanah, I was thinking how instead of the thousands of synagogues around the country, we now have millions of mini-synagogues … in kitchens, in living rooms, in dining rooms. People have created holy spaces.

You taught us to embrace the home and realize its holiness.

Mr. COVID:

As we say goodbye, I don’t want to say “until we meet again” because I hope we never will.

I do not want to say that I will miss you because I won’t miss you one bit.

I cannot even bring myself to say that your memory will be a blessing.

All I can say is this: May your memory be a lesson, and may the lessons we have learned remain with us forever. And let us say, “Amen.”

P.S. “But it’s a virus! He has no feelings, no intention, or consciousness!” I know. I guess it’s all COVID’s fault!

P.P.S. “Why Mr. COVID”? Not sure. For some reason, COVID sounds more like a male, and Corona like a female. Makes sense?

P.P.P.S. I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings as we look back on the past year. Please be in touch via email: [email protected]


Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack and an editorial member of www.Chabad.org.

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