MOTHER AND SIX IN QUARANTINE
Mrs. Ruchie Yeret, Kfar Chabad
Monday afternoon, shortly before the reading of the Megilla, we spoke on the phone with Mrs. Ruchie Yeret of Kfar Chabad. These were the final hours during which she and her six children were in quarantine after going shopping for Purim costumes at the “Red Pirate” store in Ohr Yehuda, where she has been shopping for Purim for many years.
“It was a fun shopping experience and the children were happy,” she said. “But two days later, I got a notice that the store owner was sick with corona and whoever had been in the store needed to be in quarantine.
“What a bombshell! That was a Thursday and I didn’t know what to make of this news. Quarantine? How is it done? What is okay to do? What is not okay to do? Could we be with my husband in the same house? What about my older son who was in yeshiva – could he come home? Could we eat together at home or not?
“We called the Magen Dovid Adom center where they told us we could be in the same apartment, but we had to be constantly careful about sanitizing our hands and the bathroom.
“At this point, two weeks of quarantine began. It wasn’t easy when there was excitement every day in school and the children had to miss it. Their friends couldn’t come and visit either. We couldn’t go to the park or air out at all. We couldn’t even go in a car to a place of quarantine to air out; those were the strict rules. No coming or going was very hard.
“It was a forced vacation for the children and me and we had to use our creativity to survive. We are talking about six children with the oldest 17 and the youngest only seven months.
“I tried making the best of it and told the children that while during summer vacation everyone is off from school, now, only they had vacation. We spent the following days with many hours of enjoyment, joy and togetherness. Every day, we made special Purim crafts; I didn’t even know I had it in me. Yesterday, we made a ‘Purim market.’ We turned the house into Shushan and the children came in costume and for several hours there was a very special atmosphere.
“There were hard times which I am trying to forget. Moments of frustration. Just yesterday, the boys had a big Purim event in school which they missed.
“Being in quarantine is bizarre and not pleasant. It is astonishing to watch people passing by our house and looking at our windows to see ‘how those in quarantine are doing.’ On election day, I went to vote in the area designated for those under quarantine, and it was a terrible feeling. I did not see around me the mothers who had been in the Red Pirate; most of the people had come back from China on business or from traveling in various European countries. They all stood there and shared their experiences. When I said I had just been in the Red Pirate, they looked at me compassionately. ‘Oy, poor you. At least we had adventures.’
“Still, we personally experienced the extent to which people care for each other. Every day, the teachers called and broadcast the davening live so our children at home could daven with them. They also taught them the Megilla over the phone. The girls got videos of what was going on in class and reports about what was being taught. The principal showered us with love and took care of everything.
“Many people sent chocolates and nosh for the children. Many people left things at the door and I don’t even know who left it.
“I learned that when necessary, Hashem sends unusual strength. I didn’t think I was the type to sit on the floor and do puzzles with the kids. Well, it turns out, it’s definitely possible. I learned that lemons can be turned into lemonade. Taking a forced vacation and having fun with the children was so nice for them that they already let me know that next year, we will be having a ‘Purim market’ in the house and that it did not fall short of what they had in school. The children don’t stop talking about this experience and I am sure it will be remembered for years to come.
“With Hashem’s help, tonight, Purim, we will hear the Megilla in our home but tomorrow we will be able to go to shul with everyone else and hear the Megilla. I know that for us the Purim Geula will be especially happy.”
R’ Yoni Shlomo, Professional Singer
On Sunday, the Russian government announced that it would send people to jail for five years if they came back from a country where there is a corona-virus outbreak and did not go into quarantine for two weeks.
Consequently, the invitation to the French band that was supposed to go to Russia for some Purim events was canceled. Instead, a local Russian group was hired to accompany the Chassidic singer, R’ Yoni Shlomo, who arrived in Russia a week before.
In our conversation with Yoni, he told us about the situation. He flies a lot and also see things from the perspective of the tefillin stand in the departure lounge at Ben Gurion airport. He mans the tefillin stand twice a week.
“The airport is quite empty. There is about a quarter of the usual number of travelers. Now you don’t need to stand in the business class line in order to get through the lines faster. The planes are largely empty and people can enjoy extra seats.
“In the airport’s shul there was no minyan for shacharis last Friday and that was the first time I experienced something like that. There are usually several people working at the stand who are busy; this time, there was hardly anything to do.
The situation affects not only Yoni’s parnassa but also Jewish simchas.
“A big wedding in Switzerland where I was supposed to sing was canceled, and in France too, where the parents could not attend their son’s wedding. Another wedding event was canceled in Eretz Yisrael and was transferred to a small restaurant.
“It’s definitely sad. I think the Health Ministry is going to these extremes in order to preclude any possible dangers.”
FINANCIAL DISASTER AND FAITH
Mrs. Rinati Davorsky, Milan, Italy
Rinati Davorsky is a Lubavitcher woman who has been living in Milan for twelve years. Together with her husband, she works in photograpy and guiding tours in Milan and northern Italy. Her main customers are Israelis who come to tour the Italian Peninsula. As of now, she and her family are in quarantine like millions of others in the “red zone” of Italy. Their only real choice is to remain at home as much as possible.
“We’ve entered the third week of the corona-virus crisis. Beautiful Italy has slowed the pulse of its life. Italy was hit much harder than other countries in Europe,” she says. “People are canceling meetings and are not traveling outside of places that are familiar to them. Schools and universities are closed. Life is a struggle to walk the fine line between normalcy and fear. The vacations in the schools were extended to nearly a month (if they won’t be extended even longer).
“Milan lives largely on tourism in general and fashion-tourism in particular. Obviously, this is the kiss of death for business. We are in a new, complicated reality. About 60% of hotels are closed, coffee houses are closed early. Kosher restaurants have started providing home deliveries. Purim events in the community were canceled and small minyanim were arranged for the Megilla and seudos. Today, the Chabad school opened its first day of virtual school. People have stopped shaking hands with one another and the talk in the street is worrisome.
“Anyone involved in tourism has been immediately impacted. As a tour guide, I decided to turn lemons into lemonade and be creative. I had the idea of providing virtual tours. This could be beneficial particularly for those in quarantine. Of course, it’s not the same as the real thing, but there is no choice under the circumstances. I have returned deposits to people who contracted in advance for tours. I know that some hotels where people booked rooms have refused to refund the deposits, and this is upsetting.
“Nobody prepared me or most of us (or all of us) for this extreme situation with a sudden drop in orders of 90%, with the possibility of a complete halt to the business (the Italian government has since announced a complete lock-down of the areas in the ‘red zone’) for an unspecified amount of time. No business strategy or creative ideas can possibly help, when in an instant we all found ourselves in a situation of survival thinking. I say ‘we’ because I am in touch with other professionals in the tourism business. If this viral strain does not change direction in the near future, the entire world is going to change. I am not an alarmist; I am a realist, while being full of emuna and optimism!
“My parnassa is primarily from tourism and the situation now is that there is no parnassa, but with all the aggravation, health is the top priority. I am certain that Hashem will send parnassa from somewhere else.
“The truth is that yesterday I underwent a minor crisis when we were told that Milan is a ‘red zone’ and is under lock-down; there is no going in or out. I only hope that they will start arranging food for us, rent, and covering minimum payments on our bills. We are now entering the third week without school for our children, without parnassa, and with all the emuna and optimism the test is not easy.
“Still, this morning, I got up with more emuna and more hope. I feel that this is a lesson from above. It is not my personal problem but a global problem, and perhaps Hashem sent it so that everyone will strengthen those weak points that are hard to strengthen in our busy lives, whether it is Torah study, quality time with our children, strengthening our faith in Hashem, as well as those important areas in life that we aren’t able to get to in the usual busyness of our lives.
CERTAINTY VS. UNCERTAINTY
Rabbi Zalman Vishedsky, Shliach, Basel, Switzerland
We experienced many lessons this past year during the many months that my daughter struggled with leukemia. These were accelerated courses, pointed and painful. They were not frontal; they were interactive with very clear visual aids.
The most meaningful course was “Life in Uncertainty.”
When a person is treated for leukemia, nobody knows how his day will be. He cannot plan for anything. In the morning he feels fine and two hours later he feels rotten. He’s home in the morning and in the hospital in the evening. How long will he be hospitalized? The answer is, in an hour we will check and we’ll know. This can go on for hours, days, weeks.
We make plans to live according to some plan or another and suddenly, life is uncertain and this is majorly disconcerting, until you realize that this is the lesson, this is the accelerated course. Then you start to digest it and accept it and yes, to learn the lesson. Your heart is exercised and and slowly starts getting used to accepting uncertainty with a smile, often accompanied by a look towards the heavens.
As the days go by and the course on uncertainty is learned, you suddenly realize that the iy-vadaut (uncertainty) is actually an iy-shel-vadaut (island of certainty), because the more you wholeheartedly entrust your fate, your time, your money and your life in G-d’s hands, the more powerfully do the certainly and trust enter your heart and your life and then, you live on an island of certainty.
Do you remember Black Monday in September 2008? The day that Wall Street crashed and the world entered into a global recession?
I am not a businessman but this crash directly affected me as well as everyone who worked in fundraising, because donors were hurt, and their donations too.
I remember a conversation with friends who asked, why do you think G-d shook up the world like this? I did not have a ready answer, about how it is all good. But afterward, when I watched clips from the moments of the crash and I saw people putting their hands on their heads and screaming, “Oh my G-d!” then it hit me. Perhaps G-d simply wants to hear them say this more often and when there is no other choice, he sends a little “poof” into Wall Street and then everyone in the choir shouts, “Oh my G-d!”
We don’t know why Hashem decided to send this corona-virus to the world but it’s clear now that there is one global event that is affecting nearly everyone. Plans have been messed up. They are still changing and falling apart from one moment to the next.
I don’t know how or whether there will be a Purim party in Basel this year. Will we be able to send mishloach manos? Will my children in Eretz Yisrael come home for Pesach? Will there be flights? Will my matzos from Eretz Yisrael arrive?
I think of those who made reservations in hotels in Italy for Pesach and now have to start cleaning and getting ready for Pesach. And those who flew to Eretz Yisrael on vacation and are stuck in quarantine. And there are those getting married soon and they have no idea how, how many will show up, and why this is all happening.
Perhaps, Hashem simply wants us all taking an accelerated course, pointed and painful, interactive and with plenty of visual aids, a course called “Life in Uncertainty.”
I’ll just tell you one thing from my experience: it is worth opening your heart and paying attention to this course. You may just discover that “uncertainty” is actually an “island of certainty.”
EVERYBODY IS A “CARRIER” FOR THE POSITIVE
Rabbi Ziv Katzbi
We are not G-d’s accountants and we don’t know why Hashem sent the corona-virus to the world. Obviously, it’s all from Him.
Since I try to be a Chassid who goes in the ways of Chassidus, I try to implement the directive from the Baal Shem Tov and ask myself: What can I learn from this in avodas Hashem?
The lesson is simple. When a person lets loose an “achoo” in a room, he can affect tens of thousands of people. When a person coughs on a plane, within less than a day he can reach the entire world. One infects another who infects his family, who infect all those they come into contact with. Whoever was on the plane goes into quarantine, and their families, and classes of children, and places of work, and it goes on and on…
The midda/measure of goodness is far greater than the midda/measure of punishment! If people can infect others with viruses and germs, all the more so must we “infect” others with good things.
We need to know how much good we have that we can give to the world. You may not even know what you are capable of, you were unaware, you didn’t know that you have a positive “bug” and that you have the ability to share it with others.
Say a good word to someone, a compliment or express happiness for some good fortune he experienced, and he goes home and “infects” the entire family with it and they will infect all the people in their work places and in the children’s classrooms, and within a day it reaches thousands.
In our shared world, everything is viral. Did you write something on whatsapp? Within a day you can reach half the world.
In the Dvar Malchus of Parshas Teruma, the Rebbe says this explicitly about simcha: “The trait of joy is such that it affects and penetrates all the matters of a person. When a person is happy, he lives a happy life, a joy that affects everything he does and whatever he comes in contact with, and he brings joy to others around him. This joy introduces greater success in all his activities and his entire life, as can be seen in a tangible way.” In other words, real joy is when it reaches outward and brings out the hidden powers in a person to the outside.
You don’t always have any idea how far it will go, how much of an effect it will have, but every person has the power to affect the entire world in an instant, without even being aware that he is doing it or that he even has it in him. He just needs to be a “carrier” of some positive trait, even if he has no revealed symptoms, but he has it in him; that can already infect others and spread.
We are all “carriers” of a “literal part of G-d from Above.” Now is the time to “cough it up” to the outside, and create a commotion in the streets about the endless goodness of the Creator, and may we all merit good health always, for all of mankind in general, and each and every Jew in particular.
The magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, please go to: bmoshiach.org