By Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs
I am perplexed. I am amazed. I am also pleasantly moved by the degree to which I read and hear so many people lamenting the difficulties they have faced this past year and a half. Why pleasantly? To sum it up in one sentence: Welcome to my world.
Although many people believe they have been locked up, unsocial, incommunicado with friends and loved ones, with no hugs, no face-to-face meetings, no social outings, I believe they have had only a taste of the life of a homebound, handicapped, or ill person. The latter, lacking in hope for a “cure,” face these very conditions—all the time. For those remanded to their homes, if you desired, you had the freedom to choose to go out. You had the freedom to choose to go to the bathroom. And you had the freedom to go to the kitchen and get a snack. You had the freedom to choose to eat what you want, when you want, and even to feed yourself. You had the freedom to make your own decisions.
Perhaps the difficulties and restrictions that the virus imposed on so many citizens were really a gift from God. This gift provided those who have freedom and can make choices the opportunity to better understand those of us who don’t.
For the disabled in our communities there are no freedoms, ever—no going to shul, no going to a store, no sitting with community in a sukkah, not having a seder. Now the healthy know what it is to miss shul and holidays, semaḥot and family.
This past year was not a plague, but a learning opportunity to gain a better first-hand understanding of our fellow Jews and, hopefully, develop more raḥmones (empathy) for our elderly, handicapped, ill, and homebound. These people live the “virus” life all the time with no end in sight.
Having walked in our shoes a bit, maybe some have found that the shoes pinch, are tight, are the wrong size or the wrong color. I pray that their understanding of those who live a perpetually quarantined life is awakened to be ever more considerate, patient, understanding and loving.
Rabbi Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs is a Jewish hospice chaplain who lives in New Jersey.