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On being Positive & COVID-19

Friday, 1 May, 2020 - 12:30 am

Canva - Person's Hand On A Covid19 Sign.jpgLonely, anxious, worried, agitated and fearful, are just some of the many descriptions I am hearing regarding how the loneliness and quarantining has been making people feel. There are many real concerns about health, about loss of income, about not being able to be together with loved ones, and not having the ability to get together with friends and community which are all combining to have a negative effect on people’s feelings and emotions.

There is no doubt about it, the COVid-19 Pandemic and the shutdown have many other unintended consequences on so many levels. Yet perhaps foremost for so many, is the emotional toll it is taking on the wellbeing of people of all ages. This is true of seniors, empty nesters, middle aged people, young adults, teens and children and while G-d willing we will turn the corner on the virus in the near future, in the interim this is still something we need to deal with.

One of the challenges that we face as we try to grapple with this, is the fact that there is actually lots of real pain that people are dealing with. We all may know of people who have passed away and who have left many behind in mourning. Then there are people who have lost their jobs or who have seen their businesses that they worked a lifetime building up, collapse before them. Of course there are the children and youth who are struggling to find a new structure in this new virtual and socially distant world. There are the parents who are struggling as they don’t see their children and grandchildren.

Perhaps the biggest of them all, is the general worry of the virus itself and how we navigate work, shopping and taking care of ourselves during these times. But can we still navigate this well and can we find a way to keep going forward with a more positive and happy mindset?

In Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” which describes his own experiences and reflections in the Holocaust, he writes “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” These are powerful words which were said for a tragedy of epic proportions, yet while so vastly different, the principle of these words holds true today just like any other time in history.

We can and must find a way to navigate this in a way that helps us remain positive and enables us to bring positivity to others. No one said it is easy, but it is an incumbent moral and spiritual duty of ours, to ensure that we work hard to achieve that goal. Doing so won’t just help us, it will help the next person that we speak with on the phone, or maybe give a positive twist to what we choose to share on social media, or greater yet, it will create a positive atmosphere in our own home, or for contacts and neighbors that we come in contact with.

As we take our hats off to the medical world and the brave nurses and doctors on the frontlines of this, it is also a time to focus on our own responsibility during these times which doesn’t end with us simply being safe and socially distant. Instead our focus and drive must be to realize that we are all in this together, and alongside assisting anyone who needs help that we know of, we are also able to truly make a difference by striving to be positive, having faith and trust that G-d willing things will get better soon, and by just learning to be so grateful for the amazing blessings that we have in our lives.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion, we have some very interesting laws and rules about a skin condition that could impact people in Biblical times, which if diagnosed with it, one would have to quarantine outside the camp. Maimonides and many others point out that this was a miraculous skin condition which was a symptom of talking negatively about others and general negative chatter. He points out that purpose of this condition was to draw attention to the power of our words and to show us that the reason that the person who uses negative speech has to temporarily leave society, is because it is something so profoundly damaging and undermining to a community.

Of course, we can’t let it simply be about refraining from negative talk, while still retaining negative emotions and feelings. Instead we have to work on what we share with others and try hard to focus on the positives and blessings that we have all been endowed with, and work hard to be a source of positivity and encouragement to others.

On a practical note, there are perhaps many things that we can do with ourselves and four loved ones, including creating healthy structures and schedules, healthy eating and exercising safely, and perhaps most importantly, making the time for nurturing our deeper self and our spiritual and emotional side.

This can be done by making time for prayer in our lives like by saying the Modeh Ani thanksgiving prayer in the morning, or Shema in the morning or evening, or donning Teffilin or lighting Shabbat Candles.

This can also be done, by making time in our lives when we focus on others, either by picking up the phone and reaching out to friends, arranging help for those in need, or being creative in bringing happiness or assistance to others.

Lastly studying Torah and working on using this time to develop our mind and grow as a person and as a Jew, will empower us to think deeper and navigate this challenge even better.

G-d willing we should all continue to be healthy and also constantly work on being even more positive and share that with others. L’Chaim to life, positivity, hope and faith, let us begin the new month of Chodesh Iyar and let us all work together to strengthen positivity, to lift each other’s spirits and to continue realizing the tremendous blessings of each and every moment of life.

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