In ten days time, I’m meant to be flying out of Israel to go to my brother’s batmitzvah celebration in London.
I spoke to him a couple of days ago, and I told him I don’t think I’m coming.
Israel had just announced that anyone coming back from abroad would have to self-isolate for 14 days in bidud, and much as I love my brother, we have no family here, we just moved and I don’t know the neighbors, and there is no-one who could keep my family unit going with groceries if I’m out of action.
Such strange days we live in.
My daughter is currently coughing her guts up and streaming phlegm, as she always does when Spring appears and her hayfever kicks off. Although this year, with all the anxiety about Corona and a few other things going on in her life, her asthma has also ramped up again.
Most years, my daughter’s seasonal hayfever and asthma is not a big deal.
This year, with all the hysteria about Corona, she’s scared to leave the house in case people think she’s going to kill them with a sneeze.
In the meantime, in my own dalet amot I’m having such a strange mix of tremendous good, and tremendous confusion. On the one hand, the house we managed to miraculously rent has blossomed into such a beautiful home.
We had Purim seuda yesterday, and for the first time in 7 years we had enough space to invite a few families together. Honestly, it was initially a little strange, but then we whacked the music up, started dancing and the magic happened and le ha fochu. The weird atmosphere broke and everything turned around.
For a few hours.
So much of the time right now, I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong.
Yesterday, I went for a walk to the Kotel, and I was really pondering to myself if I’m more a Haman, or more a Mordechai, because I honestly have no idea right now if I’m giving God what He really wants, or the opposite.
Everything seems so upside down at the moment.
I know it’s all exploding in madness everywhere you look, but it still seems to me that the best response to everything that’s going on right now (apart from making some serious teshuva, particularly in how we treat other people) is:
To bake cookies.
Yes, you read that right.
There is nothing better to do right now, apart from reciting lots of tehillim and doing lots of hitbodedut, except to bake cookies. Because until Hashem decides that the world really is ending, we parents have a duty to show our children that the world is still continuing in the meantime.
Already, our kids are struggling to stay in school. Already, they are struggling to get up in the mornings. Already, they are feeling like there is no point in continuing or carrying on, because the apocalypsa is around the corner, so what’s the point?
Honestly, don’t we grown ups feel that way too, so much of the time?
I’m not saying this lightly.
I’ve been waiting for geula, and trying to prepare for it in as real a way as I can for at least the last 15 years. But now that it looks like we may be coming down to the wire, and the geula really might be materializing before our eyes, increasingly the most important priority for me, as a mother, seems to be keep things as ‘normal’ as I can.
That means baking cookies. That means cleaning toilets. That means doing my best to look after my children, my family, my husband the best way I can right now.
I have my People Smarts Course that’s half done, and my People Smarts book that has been waiting six months to get sent to the printers already. For months, I haven’t been able to get to it.
Finally, last week, I realized that maybe, that’s not my main work right now.
My main work seems to be to look after my family – even tho my kids are 16 and 19 already – and to make my family my main priority.
So, I find myself making sandwiches and suppers in a way that I haven’t done for years, since they were much smaller. I find myself ferrying them around in the car – not least so I can have some quality time to really talk to them – and taking them to different places and appointments and people, because it seems like there is just so much going on, at the moment.
In some ways, it feels like my family, my responsibilities to these people who I live with, and care for tremendously, have kind of been ‘getting in the way’ of my life.
At least, that’s how it looked.
But today, I’m thinking more and more, this is actually my test, right now.
There is no better way of working on my bad middot and doing acts of kindnesses that really count than by focusing on the people in my home.
Rav Berland explained weeks ago that Corona has the same gematria as ‘mitvot bein adam l’havero’ – the mitzvahs that take place between people.
And nowhere are those mitzvahs more trampled – or more needed – than in the home.
And especially between parents and teens.
So, if you’re reading this, and you have a teen at home, and especially if you have a difficult teen at home who is struggling, stop reading this and go give them a hug. Go tell them that you think they’re amazing. Go and find something to praise about them, to their face, go make them a sandwich, take them out and get them a new top, or take them somewhere they’ve been bugging you to go for ages.
In short, go and love them unconditionally, with as much energy as you can muster.
Because that is the main test right now.
So many people are now being forced to spend 14 days cooped up with their families, with no distractions.
There’s no malls and chugim to run away to, no work deadlines, no shopping, no shiurim, no beaches and expensive holidays and restaurants.
All there is, is our raw family unit.
And that is the real test – does it feel like gehinnom or gan eden?
Is there love in the home, or constant arguments, guilt trips and withering criticism about all the things that aren’t being done 100% ‘perfectly’?
Are cookies being baked in that home, or not?
That is the question.
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