I do have a confession to make. At the risk of sounding terribly corny, I really do love my family.
Really. I do.
That shouldn’t come as quite a shock because, well, my wife and I have been married for 29 years and we have 4 adult sons together that we raised. Each boy is so different from one another, so much so, that you have no idea. That will be covered in a different blog (for another time). But they do love each other and each has each other’s back.
However, being in tight quarters could drive anybody up a wall. We live in a 2-floor apartment in Ra’anana. It’s a decent-sized apartment, with not too many rooms and under normal circumstances, people enjoy their privacy. My oldest son lives with flatmates in Tel Aviv, yet he moved home before Shabbat because of the coronavirus situation. My other three sons live at home, yet work and the youngest is in the IDF. However, our soldier has been in quarantine since last Saturday night as he was in a room on his base, of all places, with another soldier who tested positive. No worries. Not only was he more than 2 metres away from him, but he also hasn’t shown any symptoms, so, we’re 99.99999% sure that he’s in the clear.
Before Shabbat came in, I had a ZOOM meeting with my mates from the kiddish club. We generally meet every Shabbat after shul at the home of whoever’s turn it is to host and enjoy some fine whiskey, biltong, chulent, and other Shabbat foods. The company is great and it’s so cool to just kick back with your buds. Of course, given the circumstances of Covid-19, this is not happening. So, at about 4:45pm on Friday, I joined this ZOOM meeting from my bedroom with a plastic cup filled part of the way with Glenmorangie, and tuned in. We raised our glasses, recited the bracha and drank. It was awesome, yet inside, I was crying like a 4-year-old who got lost in a big department store. It was so damned surreal that I didn’t know what to make of it. We were laughing, joking around and at the end of this quick, virtual kiddish club, we wished each other a “Shabbat Shalom” and we all ended the conversation with, “I love you”.
Yeah..that’s right. A bunch of 40+ and 50+-year-old men, all married with children, most of whom are from the UK, South Africa and only two showed up from the USA (one would be yours truly), and we ended this conversation with, “I love you”.
As I said, this is all very surreal.
Getting back to my home and family, being an avid shul-goer and ‘minyan-man’, for the very first time in many, many years, I prayed at home. Synagogues are closed throughout the country and the Chief Rabbis of Israel deemed that this situation is “pikuach nefesh”, so it is even forbidden to be in a crowded area, if you don’t really need to be. I davened out on my terrace facing Jerusalem. As it began to rain, I stood under a ledge, but davened and sang to myself as hot, wet tears dropped from my eyes. I’ll admit, I’ve been crying every day, especially during tefilah. I think that the mere concept of davening by myself, and singing by myself just triggered a whole boxload of emotions.
Despite it all, our meals were fun. We joked around. We laughed. We had serious conversations. Even though Yoni is in quarantine, he’s at the tail-end of it, and as stated, he’s not symptomatic. We did maintain our distance and did everything according to the rules. It was as if everything were almost back to normal.
On Shabbat morning, I ventured out onto my terrace once again, donned my talit, wearing Shabbat clothes and began davening. After I got to the end of p’sukei d’zimra, I heard my name being called. It was my neighbour Erez who was inviting me to a make-shift, quick minyan in someone’s courtyard. I declined as nowadays, that’s very ill-advised and even dangerous. Yet, they began exactly where I was up to – “Shochen Ad”.
I joined in from my balcony. I made myself be heard. I responded with amen and kedusha during the repetition of amida. Although I know that this was just not right, I felt fine and proud just the same.
It was a great Shabbat, to be frank. Just us. Our own world. Love, family, and familiarity were in the air. Yes, we are taking it one day at a time. Yes, we are very concerned, even scared. But, we’ll get through this. We just have to.
GD Bless all of you. Be safe. Be healthy. Be smart. #coronastrong