Four Questions

1. Does it really matter when I light Shabbat candles? So what if I light them a bit later than sundown, like say when we sit down to dinner? The main thing is I lit them, right?

2. Come on, a mezuzah is a mezuzah. What’s the big deal if mine is a printed paper instead of a parchment hand-written by a certified scribe? Isn’t the content what really matters? Plus I’d be saving a bundle, which I can really use for more important things, even tzedakah.

3. Kosher? OK I get it, no pork. But let’s be real: beef is beef and chicken is chicken. If it looks kosher, tastes kosher and smells kosher that should be enough. Why pay more – a lot more – just because some rabbi blessed it?

4. Now really, will the world come to an end if I miss a day of tefillin? I tried it once and, believe me, nothing happened.

I dearly miss my beloved Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, OBM, always. But more so than during these terrifying days of the coronavirus. His clear, consistent, inspiring and elevating voice is so desperately needed. The Rebbe always knew how to dispel anxiety and confusion, fear and doubt. And his words were not merely soothing, they came with a consummate sense of direction, allowing us to know exactly what needed to be done, and how to steer ourselves toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

Yes, we must acknowledge genuine pain, suffering and loss. These are legitimate human emotions. Despair, however, is not. It merely magnifies a problem. Misery prevents us from finding the solace, significance and a sense of purpose that are life-affirming and life-enhancing.

Far be it from me to imagine what the Rebbe would be telling us right now. It would be presumptuous to speculate how he would be offering us comfort and emotional respite. Yet, I have no doubt – based on the Rebbe’s teachings, guidance and the example set – that there are profound lessons embedded in this coronavirus pandemic, ones that apply directly to our lives.

In addition to the numerous lessons to be learned from the virus’ social impact, there is something infinitely more important to be gleaned from the very nature of the virus itself.

The corona epidemic began with an invisible microbe (measuring 80 billionths of a meter in diameter) that infected whoever came within even a slight contact with it. In almost no time, the virus was able to spread pandemically to the farthest reaches of the globe.

Yes, a single microscopic microbe brought humankind to its knees – corrupting the environment, afflicting millions, felling hundreds of thousands, destroying entire economies, shattering hopes, isolating people and societies.

We are all paying a heavy price for this minuscule creature. Yet it teaches us an enormous lesson about Almighty G‑d’s infinite power. Just look at the vast destructive power the Creator of the universe vested in something this small.

Our limitations as humans prevent us from apprehending the sensitivity and full depth of G–dly power. But it behooves us to pause and consider; if this tiniest of the Creator’s creatures can be so powerful, how infinite and utterly ungraspable are the attributes of G‑d Himself.

Perhaps now we can begin to appreciate the power of a single mitzvah. Any mitzvah ordained by G‑d provides a tangible manifestation of the Al-mighty’s infinite energy and relevance in our lives. As ordinary mortals we are incapable of appreciating this fully, much as we were – but a few months ago – incapable of imagining, let alone fathoming, the full might of the minute coronavirus. How much more so are we unable to appreciate the infinite G‑dly energy vested in a G‑dly commandment, as well as the impact it has upon the individual performing it and on the entire world.

In the words of Maimonides, "...a person should always see himself as equally balanced... if he performs one mitzvah, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and brings deliverance and salvation to himself and others..."

It is time to focus on – and appreciate ­– the Torah and the mitzvot given to us by G‑d. For these truly impact on our lives – in a positive way – to a much greater extent than any microbe possibly can. Such an appreciation must enormously impact our daily lives. For indeed, there are good things that can – and must – go viral; Jewish practices such as tefillin, kosher, mezuzot, lighting Shabbat candles at the right time, giving tzedakah daily, etc.

This is the time we accept G‑d’s Torah and welcome His mitzvot as never before.