Return to Normal?

When will things return to normal?

That question got your attention, didn’t it?  Internet search engines report that this may be the most asked question during the first half of 2020.  This popular question was also asked (although not on the Internet)  after President Lincoln signed into law the first income tax in 1862. It was passed as an emergency temporary measure, but you know how that worked out.

During the first few years after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, harassed airline passengers used to ask, “When will things return to normal?”  No travelers ask that question anymore. You might think that the brief answer to the question is…never!  But it is not so simple. The problem is that the question employs a word with no definition—normal.

What you really mean is, when will things return to the way I remember them back in…er, when? Immediately prior to covid19?  One year before anyone heard of corona? Before mobs of Americans defaced and destroyed historical statues? There is no such thing as normal.  That is why the Lord’s language, Hebrew, possesses no word for normal.

But Hebrew does have a word for change and it shares a root source with the Hebrew word for year. This is to teach us that just as one year leads to the next, always forward never backward, so change leads to change, sometimes positive and other times negative and never returning to what we remember as normal.

ש – נ – ה            ש – נ – ה
year                  change

The trouble is that change produces anxiety in us. We worry whether we’ll be able to function under the new circumstances brought about by change.

If there is worry in a man’s mind, he should _________ 
(Proverbs 12:25)

That blank replaces a complex and untranslatable Hebrew verb “yaschenah”  which is used throughout Tanach in three different ways each of which sheds another ray of light onto dealing with worry and anxiety.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains the three-component meanings of “yaschenah”:

1. Quash.
2. Banish.
3. Discuss.

In other words, when overwhelmed by anxiety, there are three strategies we can employ. Different ones work best at different times, based both on what is causing the anxiety and on our own personalities and circumstances.

1. We should attempt to quash the worry by burying it beneath an avalanche of other more positive thoughts. At this point, it is still in our minds but overwhelmed by competing upbeat messages.

2. Alternatively, we might try to banish the worrying thoughts from our minds. The Tenth Commandment reveals that God expects us to control not only what we do, but also what we think. Commandment number eight already told us ‘Don’t steal’. Yet, number ten asks us not to desire the possessions of others. Simply saying, “I can’t help what I think and feel, the heart wants what the heart wants,” in the words of the illustrious sage, Woody Allen, doesn’t cut it. We can and must control our thoughts and feelings. Therefore one way of dealing with anxiety brought on by change is to banish the thoughts entirely from our minds.  Exercising discipline and willpower, we don’t allow the worry-provoking thoughts to linger in our minds, but we instantly suppress them by replacing them with alternate scenarios.

3. If we find that we can’t tackle the anxiety on our own, we can adopt the strategy derived from the third meaning of “yaschenah” by discussing the worry with the right friend. If we choose wisely, doing so should remove the worry and reintroduce joy just as the conclusion of that verse indicates.

…and a good word transforms it into joy.
(Proverbs 12:25)

When will things return to normal, exactly as they were in summer 2019?  The answer is — never.  But eventually, schools and businesses will reopen.  Eventually, the pandemic will subside and the panic will fade. The brazen wearing of masks even on outdoor hiking trails will ease up. Some will wear them and others won’t.  Eventually, the economy will bounce back with a roar, and decimated portfolios and savings accounts will get replenished. Eventually roaming mobs of barbarians will fade away; some statues will be replaced and others will be lost forever.  Homeschooled children will learn their nation’s history while those children attending *GIC’s won’t.  Eventually, universities will reopen while many former students will rethink the value proposition of their expensive ‘educations’. Yes, change. Plenty change.   

Much change may be regrettable and we’ll think back nostalgically.  However, through it all, wise and happy warriors will focus on their five Fs. They will build and protect their Families, they will maintain Friendships, they will nurture Faith, they will adjust their activities to the times in order to boost their Finances, and they will manage their Fitness.

When all those five Fs of your life are in good shape, oppressive travel regulations,  quarantine restrictions, political cupidity, civic cowardice, and a growing canyon cutting through the culture cannot shake up the core of your life.  Despite the turbulence swirling around the pilings of our peoplehood,  we can still function and be very happy indeed.

When will things return to normal? Wrong question.  When shall we live our lives to the fullest? Now.

* government indoctrination camps formerly known as public schools

Things were VERY abnormal before the Flood
What did Noah do that was so special? 
What did the rest of the people do that was so awful?

The Gathering Storm: Decoding the Secrets of Noah

Rabbi Lapin Download

25 thoughts on “Return to Normal?”

  1. I am able to live my life during these troubled times fairly normally as I am not directly affected. However I can’t help but worry for others and the country and President Trump. Mostly because I can’t see a solution. The covid will go away. I understand that. But where did all these rioters come from and why are they so emboldened. It is like they are always lying in wait for another excuse.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      I know how you feel, Linda-
      Take another look at last week’s Thought Tool asking whether we have only another six years. It will help you understand where these rioters come from and why elected officials and bureaucrats have mostly surrendered in sheer cowardice.

  2. Dear Rabbi Daniel Lapin, this is wonderful insight and teaching which I (more than most) definitely need thank you! One question if possible please: Why is it when I use my Strongs concordance that I don’t see the word ‘yaschenah’? I realize its probably a simplistic question! Obviously I have zero knowledge of the original language and I know the original Hebrew is critically valuable, but it seems that Strongs (or my use of it) is missing something? Thank you in advance!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Ian–
      To effectively use any concordance, Strong’s or the magnificent Even Shoshan one must be able to identify the root. In Hebrew that is not always easy but it does follow specific rules. These include knowing which letters as prefixes or suffixes never count as part of the root. They also include knowing which letters are interchangeable in root forms. Finally, for now, they also include knowing whether we’re looking at a 2 letter basic root or a 3 letter compound root.
      Look, Ian, if it was so simple, you wouldn’t need a rabbi, would you? And I’d be unemployed. And that wouldn’t be good.

  3. Dear Rabbi,
    Hallelujah for the Hebrew and the clarity with which you present the Holy words.
    Thank you!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You’re welcome, Joanie-
      And the Hebrew words really do speak for themselves. I just help to make them a bit more accessible.

  4. Vickie Lynn Sanderson

    Thank you, Rabbi!! This short message was cooling salve on open wounds of the psyche. You have provided God’s wisdom to bring this person grief, and I will pass this same wisdom (and appropriate credit) to many others. Thank you, Rabbi!!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Oh good, Vickie,
      I am so happy to hear that this work brought you value.

  5. Thank you again for your wise and esoteric commentary. I am reminded of Mark Twain, who wrote “When knocking statues off their bases (plenums), be sure to save the base. It makes it much easier to put up the next set of statues!”

  6. I really enjoyed your post. It inspired me deeply because I am consumed by worry right now regarding my oldest child/daughter. I have no control over the situation in question. I suppose when something doesn’t doesn’t make sense to us, we attempt to rationalize the situation that “we”, as parents, must have done something wrong; it’s our fault in some way. I have tried to do the only thing I have control over and that is working. I try to fill my day with work and reading at night before bed. I never interpreted the 10th Commandment as you did, but it makes sense. You have no idea how much comfort your suggestions/ideas have inspired me. Thank you, Rabbi Lapin (and Susan, for I enjoy your writings too😉).

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You’re most welcome Claire,
      Sorry you’re going through some pain with your daughter. Hang in there because you never know when salvation waits just around the next corner. Don’t give up.

  7. Ruth McCausland

    Dear Rabbi: Thank you for sharing this wisdom about “normal” not being in the Hebrew language and tying it so neatly into our lives as they should.

  8. Thank you for helping me rethink the desire to have life back to normal and embrace change with a healthy attitude. I will keep those five “F”s in mind as I move forward with the changes in my life.

  9. I love your post. I love the way you broke the Hebrew word down. This is practical. I will pay it forward!

      1. Theresa Garland

        Thank you sir really needed those words of encouragement this morning! Changed my thought pattern . Thank you Theresa Garland

  10. “The new normal” was part of the Socialist/Russian manifesto and every once in a while
    you will hear it in our media.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Right, Sharon,
      and these days they don’t even try to conceal or camouflage their intentions.

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