Just as covid-19 wound down in Eretz Yisrael and the regulations mostly lifted, we faced:
- an upsurge in Philistine assaults on Jews—particularly religious Jews
- a horrific mass casualty tragedy in Meron
- a terror attack on 3 yeshivah bachurs
- and then an upswing in Philistinian rioting.
- The Israeli government is moving in a questionable direction with unsavory alliances.
- And now looms the threat of renewed missile attacks from Gaza.
While I can't know the cheshbonot of Hashem, one thing is clear:
Hashem is showing us He decides. He's in control.
We suffered so much polarization over the covid-19 regulations, with people—including otherwise intelligent & well-intentioned frum people—displaying blind devotion to "preventative" measures not backed up by actual science (such as the regular or cloth masks & the 6-foot social distancing):
- MIT Study Challenges Social Distancing Guidelines, 6-Foot Rule
- Danish Study Finds Face Masks Provide 15-20% More Protection to Wearer (in other words, not enough to worship the wearing of masks)
- https://video-tov.ml/watch/cK-oAJDXYHg: Oxford Epidemiologists – No Evidence that Coronavirus Masks Make Any Difference
A great deal of fear surrounded and continues to surround covid-19, leading to treating others badly, and even maltreating patients to the point of death—as proven by a highly publicized letter, which described the appalling neglect of covid-19 patients within the hospital:
(And that was just one instance, when some very courageous doctors decided to expose the maltreatment. How many hospitals around the world suffer the same situation, but the staff cannot bring themselves to stand up for their patients?)
Needless to say, as much as I lean toward the other side (no need for vaccination, have some very legitimate questions regarding the vaccination, etc.), at the same time, I also realize that Hashem is there too and I reject stances from my favored side that wipe Hashem out of the picture.
I also realize that covid-19 is not over yet, and that it could have been & could still be much worse, chas v'shalom.
I'm very grateful to the Creator that regulations have relaxed so much in Eretz Yisrael and that the covid-19 epidemic has not been worse than it was—even as my heart goes out to the people & their families who suffered complications or died from actual covid-19.
Some Solid (Albeit Not Very Cheery) Guidance for Our New World
And while Rav Schwartz is very strong in his views & discusses a very high spiritual level, he is also very understanding & loving toward those of us who cannot hold where he is holding right now.
So it doesn't bother me that Rav Schwartz is way high above because I realize that a rabbi at my level or just a couple of levels above can't help me grow much.
And as one commenter said on a previous post, Rav Schwartz has provided a roadmap for us through these new times.
Please keep in mind that all the following quotes derive from English transcripts of spoken lectures originally given in Hebrew about deep & difficult-to-translate topics.
Around a year ago in Bilvavi.Corona.Q.and.A.pdf, Rav Schwartz made a particularly astute insight (emphases mine):
Since we are in the unknown right now, now that we have entered into the period known as “Reisha d’lo isyada” [The Unknowable Beginning], a higher mode of conduct from Heaven, it is therefore not possible for the world to even return to normal again.
It has risen to the level of Reisha d’lo isyada, and from there it will go to the realm of “Atik” and then to the “mouth” of Adam Kadmon. It will never again return to the lower realm of until now.
— page 60
I think many of us sensed this at some point.
Covid-19 started months before Rosh HaShanah of 2020/5781, but I only really sensed a change right before Rosh HaShanah.
I noticed Hashem changing certain aspects of my life, leading me into a deeper & more real direction.
Hitbodedut also changed for me around then (even before then), both becoming much more challenging (and many times impossible), and yet (when I was able to connect), it meant receiving more reassuring messages combined with messages of needing to readjust my direction.
Knowing that the entire world actually transferred to a different platform, a wholly different & new state of being (spiritually speaking), helped me a lot.
It has been very hard at times (VERY hard!), but I still prefer to know this rather than not have a clue.
This message also helped gain perspective:
The world will not go back to the way it was before, and that is clear.
The world will not return to normal again unlike after World War II.
Whether this period lasts for a long time or for a short time, it is clear that the world will never return to the way it was before.
* * *
There will never be calmness and peace in the world again.
There will be a lot of extreme changes in the world, from all different directions.
Some of these changes will be totally unexpected.
Last year of 5779 was a ‘bridging point’, and now in 5780 we have actually entered into a changed world.
Anyone who isn’t so affected by the tumah of the world today is able to see it clearly, just as clearly as the sun in mid-day.
— pages 58-59
Recently, I was at the house of the Mashgiach and tzaddik, HaGaon Rav Don Segal shlit”a, and he said as follows:
“People think that they will deal with this epidemic. They will get the vaccine, wear masks and keep social distancing, and that eventually we will be past all of this.
"But, I have told this to you before, and I will keep saying it: The world will never go back to the way it was before. I have no idea what will happen, but one thing is for sure, the world is never going back to before."
— pages 51-52
Do I find it reassuring?
I'm very much a homebody & fond of routine & empty schedules—rarely spontaneous or risk-taking or adventurous.
So the idea of not being able to rely on routine & schedules really bothers me.
Rav Schwartz speaks about this idea a lot, not just what is featured here.
We must adjust to the inability to rely on our plans.
Yes, he says we can still make plans and continue with our lives—but without the reliance on stability.
Things can & will be subject to change.
Rav Schwartz gave the personal example of his own child's upcoming event. They ordered a hall and everything, but he acknowledges that until it actually happens, he can't know that it will actually happen there & in that way.
As we saw with weddings during the apex of the covid-19 regulations, venues & catering —and even guests!—forced a last-minute switch.
On my own in the midst of covid-19, I felt paralyzed by the day-by-day (and sometimes hour-by-hour) changes in regulations and school hours, etc.
At one point, I could not see how to function.
But then helpful guidance came again from Rav Schwartz
Now that we can’t plan anything, does that mean we should just not do anything at all and spend our lives in boredom?
No, that is not a way to live. So what is the answer? The prophet Habakkuk explained that it is emunah (faith in Hashem) which enables the Jews in the final generations to live and survive.
* * *
We cannot plan far ahead, and the only planning we can do is for the very next step, and that’s it.
All we can do is rely on Hashem that Hashem will guide us where we need to get to.
— pages 54-55
May Hashem help us to realize that all of our plans and hopes are dependent on His will, and that anything we want to do will only happen if He wants it to happen.
All of our plans need to be made with the awareness that all our plans are up in the air, and that if Hashem wants our plans to happen, they will happen, and if the plans didn’t happen, then we are fine with this, because that is what Hashem wanted!
And that is how we can deeply connect to Hashem, and that is the complete bitachon to have in Hashem.
Then, going back to page 10 in Bilvavi.Corona.Q.and.A.pdf:
The way to get rid of this kelipah is by shining the light of Moshiach, which is found with us already now.
This is the light of the keter d’keter on the side of kedushah.
When the media will disappear, Moshiach will come.
But until Moshiach comes, the innermost level of the shaar hanun d’tumah [the gate of the 50th level of spiritual blockage/impurity] dominates in the world and it contains a mixture of kedushah and tumah, from the highest level of kedushah all the way down to the lowest level of tumah.
That is why in this generation everything has become mixed and confused together in a disturbing way, which our logic cannot comprehend.
This will not change until the coming of Moshiach.
It is simply the innate nature of the times.
And how do we feel about knowing this will not change until Mashiach comes?
For me, it brings out mixed feelings.
On one hand, I feel like, "Wow, so we're finally on the final stretch of the journey—the end is in sight!"
On the other hand, I feel like, "Okay, so this is really it. No going back. While there may be phases of respite, things aren't ever again going to settle in the way I'm used to or would like. Okay, so...how much longer is this going to go on? How long exactly is this final stretch? Is the end really in sight?"
Despite my mixed feelings, I still prefer to know this & deal with the reality as it is.
It grants a certain direction & fortitude I'd otherwise lack.
At the same time, I definitely understand people who find this distressing & need a different kind of chizuk.
Hopefully, they can find what they need via a different approach.
And finally, here's how to respond to it all in a general sense...
What is the Root of Repairing the COVID-19 Challenge?
The root of repairing this epidemic of corona virus is to become connected with people who are good and pure.
Each person on their own level should do this.
Also included in this is to have warm connection with other people, with people with whom it is appropriate to connect with.
This is also the secret of Moshiach.
The word Moshiach contains the Hebrew letters yud and ches, which is an acronym, for yeish cham, which means “there is warmth”.
— page 7 Bilvavi.Corona.Q.and.A.pdf
Interestingly, its proponents promoted the idea of going low-contact or no-contact as a way to deal with personality disordered people.
Because it flowed through a non-Torah conduit, the idea got distorted along the way.
For example, the Torah way includes the aseh tov (do good) aspect, and not just the sur m'ra (turn from evil) aspect.
It's not just a matter of avoiding lesser people—we must strive to connect with better people!
Also, what the Torah defines as a good person & as a beneficial connection remains different than what the non-Torah world considers good or beneficial.
But it's interesting that this basic (albeit distorted) ruach flowed into the world preceding the transfer to Keter d'Keter (The sefirah level known as Crown of Crown) “Reisha d’lo isyada” [The Unknowable Beginning].
Likewise, during that pre-covid 19 time, Hashem led me to explore all sorts of classic Torah sources, which struck me with their emphasis on the importance of avoiding bad influences (i.e., people who drag you down) while seeking out good influences (i.e. people who are good & pure—or who are at least sincerely striving in that direction!).
This gave me the inner fortitude to disengage from the well-meaning pressure in many parts of the frum world (as featured in many lectures & books & articles) to davka connect with all sorts of people in the name of ahavat Yisrael and re-building the Beit HaMikdash.
A lot of well-intended pop-frum focus has been directed at connecting with iffy or even the most dysfunctional people, presenting it as okay as long as you judge them favorably even to the point of hurting yourself & others by insisting (inaccurately) they have excusable & legit reasons for all the harm they do.
(Not going to spell it out because what I see as dysfunctional might be different than what you consider dysfunctional...and I don't feel like getting into a fight or hurting anyone's feelings.)
Also, giving the benefit of the doubt/judging favorably & finding a good point are 2 different functions.
For example, a much ignored Torah precept commands us to NOT give the benefit of the doubt to a bad person!
Even when he does something good, we are supposed to suspect his underlying motives!
A bad person cannot be doing something good for a good reason.
At the same time, you can still find a good point in him even as you judge him unfavorably.
Later, Rav Avigdor Miller's transcripts became widely available, which repeatedly emphasized the importance of cleaning up your own backyard first, of avoiding non-Torah influences while embracing Torah influences.
Connect to good influences! Befriend those on a higher level than you!
That's the message from our real talmidei chachamim throughout the centuries.
You want to do kiruv? Start with yourself! Bringing yourself close to Hashem & His Torah is a lifetime project. (Rav Miller especially emphasized this.)
At the same time, all the Sages emphasize the following:
Be nice to EVERYONE.
Find a good point, even in a bad person (which doesn't make them overall good, BTW—but seeing 1 good aspect benefits both you and them, as explained by Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender in Words of Faith).
No need to accommodate dysfunctional people until it hurts—but being generally nice & respectful is a great thing.
Seek out good people. Seek to connect with good people.
That's the message throughout the ages and highlighted in our new world of Keter d'Keter–Reisha d’lo isyada.