Here in Australia, COVID-19 has hit. We are locked down in almost every possible way and being asked to hold back from so many things that we might want or need to do—with painful consequences for many—in order to protect ourselves and others.

Perhaps there is a powerful transformative process happening here, remembering that although this directive is coming from beyond us, it needs to be taken on and internalized by each of the inhabitants of our country.

Let’s look a little deeper. We already know about the transformative power of holding back—the power of observing negative mitzvot by staying away from what is not permitted, and how this transforms and prepares the world for the era of Moshiach.

In addition, the Alter Rebbe explains1 the powerful transformative energy of refraining even from things that are permissible. When we suppress our desires, even for things that are not actually forbidden but are not necessary, powerful supernal light pervades all the spiritual and physical worlds.

The Maharal of Prague explains that the Noahide law that prohibits taking a limb from a living animal represents, in essence, a holding back from impulsivity, which is a powerful refining force for humanity.

Now, during COVID-19, we have this holding back happening on an enormous scale, and there are so many people who might never before have exercised such a degree of holding back for the sake of another. This means that powerful and unprecedented transformative energy is drawn down to powerfully refine our world.

As we hold ourselves back for the sake of one another, let’s pray that G‑d guides medical leaders and governments to direct us wisely and safely, and bring about healing, transformation and the ultimate redemption!