That would be worse, he says.
Instead, people must not return to all their immoral and/or superficial activities.
We all must dig down to make deep, lasting change.
Rav Schwartz says that, after such a pandemic with its resulting shortages & restrictions, would be worse if the world would go back to the way it was.
That kind of gave me the heebie-jeebies to hear, but here is why he is correct...
I received the video clip in my email, and there they all were in their workout clothes and pink bow-pins, stretching and socializing around the race track, while some were being interviewed by the news.
They spoke about how proud they were of themselves to reach this point, and how great it was to meet others like them.
I know that this family member dealt with her illness by putting up a blog to record her experience, plus she took comfort in the fact that her oncologist was soooooooo good, and the treatment facility was sooooooo highly regarded, and that her in-laws (who lived nearby) were sooooo supportive, and that she was soooooooo determined to keep up a positive attitude.
But the self-congratulatory marathon really bothered me and I wasn't sure why.
Perhaps I am a miserable sourpuss? A hater?
I asked a friend of mine why I felt the way I did, and she immediately said, "Because it's all about 'I did it! We did it!' rather than, 'God did it!' "
Bingo. That was it.
Throughout the entire illness and after, this family member basically praised herself for making the right decisions: She'd married into a helpful family (whom she actually hadn't liked too much, but was happy to use them when she needed them), and she (with help from others) picked out a good doctor and treatment center, and now she was going to maintain a positive attitude (with lots of support from family & friends) because that was the best way to assist in her own treatment.
The thing is this:
- It was a kindness from God (in whom she kind of believed in the way many secular Americans do today) that her in-laws were willing to be so helpful.
- It was also a kindness from God that they were ABLE to be so helpful. As we all know, good will isn't enough. Sometimes illness, other pressing demands, or disability can interfere with even the most generous willingness.
- It was a kindness from God that she had a good treatment center nearby and that the best doctor for her was available. (They don't always have to be.)
- It was also a Divine kindness that she was surrounded by such supportive family & friends. (Sadly, some cancer patients find themselves very much on their own).
And finally, it was a major kindness from God that the treatment actually WORKED. (It doesn't have to...even when the person maintains a positive attitude.)
Is the Main Point of Life a Strong & Healthy Body?
It was a celebration of the human body, not the human soul or even the human heart.
Look! We're all so healthy and strong now – we can run fast & far!
As if that's the main goal of living: superior physical health.
And again, it was all about how THEY did it.
THEY overcame cancer.
THEY are the Great Victors!
And really, this family member came away from the whole experience taking pride in herself (when she was not exactly a humble person to begin with) and her own abilities.
Of course, she speaks properly about it.
Today, Americans are very into saying that they feel "very grateful" or "very lucky" or "very fortunate" or "very blessed" without ever mentioning WHO blessed them or from WHOM their wonderful luck or good fortune came.
The truth is that such good fortune serves to imbue people with feelings of fake superiority.
They feel very good about "their" accomplishment.
They say they feel grateful, but as long as there is no address for that gratitude, then it's an empty expression only meant to cover up the intense self-satisfaction & pride they really feel.
The other big change for many of these "victors" is a stronger commitment to healthy eating – while the more intense ones also commit to staying away from generic cleaners & laundry detergent.
And sure, it's good to care properly for the body in which Hashem houses your soul.
Healthy eating is a mitzvah. (Not obsessively healthy eating, but doing the basics and not indulging in food taavot.)
But what about food & cleansing for the soul?
Why Doing Teshuvah can Mitigate Everything
And if the quarantines lifted right now, people around the world would come out feeling self-congratulatory:
We made it! We did it! We displayed such intelligence & resourcefulness to have bought enough supplies to keep us going! We succeeded in working from home while schooling the kids via Skype! We ingested lots of vitamin C! We put our faith in masks & gloves, and they protected us! Yay us!!!
This is why it's very, very important to do teshuvah right now.
Baruch Hashem, for the Jewish community, it seems like the people who decided to start keeping Shabbat during that forced government-enforced Shabbat in Eretz Yisrael will continue to do so.
But, as per the examples Rav Schwartz mentions, will people who made due with (and thoroughly enjoyed) the scaled-down weddings simply say, "Well, now we can go back to those exorbitantly expensive extravaganzas!"?
Will people say, "Baruch Hashem, we can return to spending Pesach on a cruise ship again"?
If so, then the whole point of this nisayon has been defeated.
Fortunately, I think that at this point, there are many people taking lessons to heart:
Keeping Shabbat, seeing how to live a scaled-down lifestyle, the time spent with the children, the extra & intensified davening, the inner scrutiny necessary for real change, new & lasting kabbalot, the extra middot-work necessary for a marriage or any other familial relationship packed together in a lockdown — it seems like long-term positive changes have already occurred.
And I really, really hope that's enough to sweeten this increasingly oppressive din.
May Hashem eliminate coronavirus from our midst and grant all the cholim a complete & speedy refuah. May He also return us to our schools, yeshivot, and schools. May we always gather together for good reasons.