Posts tagged " COVID "

COVID Victim or Victor?

December 21st, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting 1 comment

We human beings habituate very easily to new ideas and actions. Growing up, my mother taught me to grease a pan by dipping a paper towel into Crisco shortening (hydrogenated oil was not a phrase we knew) and smearing it over the pan. Years later, when I set out to bake some cookies and realized that I didn’t have any Pam, I almost aborted my effort before remembering that women managed to bake before the invention of spray oil.

In that vein, a young mother told me that she needs to tell her son to take off his mask when he is home from daycare. In his four-year-old life, wearing a mask has become a norm. He doesn’t question it; instead, he questions when he is allowed to discard it.

What else are we being led to think of as normal? I am hearing refrains of low expectations for today’s students. Having missed so much school and with so much of school taking place on ZOOM or in classrooms with masked teachers, we should expect little of today’s children. They will lose math skills, have fewer communication skills, they will be behind— maybe we should just sign them up for years of government support because they aren’t being given the tools to succeed.

What a twisted and nefarious prediction! We used to highlight stories of success for our children. Today’s educational establishment and too many parents instead highlight stories of victimization and failure. There is no quicker way to turn our children into failures than to expect them to be so.

Each and every parent has the sacred responsibility to provide a path to success for his or her children. There are true stories, not of one unusual person, but of many people who triumphed over grueling circumstances. Are we actually going to use COVID as an excuse for failure when thousands of enormously successful people came out of slavery, arrived on these shores penniless and not knowing English, spent their formative years hiding from the Nazis, or fought life-threatening and debilitating childhood illnesses?

This pandemic continues to present challenges to parents. It has also made one of the overarching conflicts of our culture even more clear.  Each of us must choose to stand, and to have our children stand, in the line labeled “losers/victims”  or in the line labeled, “strivers/victors.” It is absolutely a choice, not a pre-determined reality.

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Are You a Noah or an Abraham?

November 8th, 2020 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

As we read the section of Genesis about the Flood, we see the world being destroyed and recreated. Noah is the man who lived through the recreation.  When he left the ark, he emerged into a world that was fundamentally changed from what it had been before.  Unfortunately, Noah himself was also changed through witnessing the horrific destruction.  Noah, who before the Flood was an Ish Tzadik, a man of righteousness, was now an Ish Adamah, a man of the earth.  Noah got derailed. He wasn’t able to adapt to the new world with resilience and he fell from his original great height.

Ancient Jewish wisdom draws parallels and distinctions between Noah and Abraham.  Rabbi Berel Wein points out that this is one area we see the difference between them.  Noah couldn’t move past the flood.  He entered the new world, planted a vineyard, and drowned his sorrows.  We don’t see him re-emerging to build and recreate.   Abraham had ten challenges each of which could have derailed him. He kept going forward regardless.  Abraham had resilience.  He looked forward with hope and optimism, not backward at difficulties and destruction.

Yesterday I read an article discussing how society is changing because of corona and the author gave a prediction of how long it will take until life is back to normal.  The author claimed that this will take several years.  I realized then that we have a choice.  We too are witnessing a changing world.  Thank God, not anywhere close to the level that Noah witnessed, but we are living through an upheaval, and we suspect that our world for at least the next year will be unlike the world last year.

We have a choice.  We can look backward and feel stuck because life doesn’t feel normal, it doesn’t feel comfortable and it’s not what we’re used to.  Or we can look forwards like Abraham and focus on and embrace the reality we have been given today with optimism and energy.

On Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), I took my young son to an outdoor farm festival.  It was not crowded, we were outdoors and in masks.  At one time, he and two other children were playing in a big sandlot and I noticed that each of the three children was playing totally independently. They weren’t chatting or creating a make-believe game.  They were far apart and ignoring each other.  It felt surreal to me.  When my other children were this age and in a public park or play area, they naturally started interacting with other children, playing with, and talking to them.  I felt saddened that this was the new reality for little children, but I realized that the three kids were perfectly happy.  They may not even remember it being otherwise.  I was the one that could stew in the past and feel upset that today was different, or I could accept the beauty of today’s reality and face the new situation head on without contrasting it to last year’s scenario.

Weddings have changed.  Bar Mitzvahs have changed.  School has changed.  Our relationship with screens has changed.  And so much more. And yes, change is difficult.  But the choice is ours to learn from Abraham to choose to look forward with hope and resilience.  Our children won’t benefit from hearing us bemoan how different everything feels.  They will benefit from us making the best of our world as it is today.  We need to find the blessings and overcome the challenges.  It is on us as mothers to not to complain in front of our kids about what is currently gone and different, but to see with clear-headed eyes what our reality is today and make the right decisions to make the most of today’s opportunities.  This is resilience – switching our focus from what once was to what is today and what we look forward to tomorrow.

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The Not Restful Rest Stop

October 15th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

My husband and I recently found ourselves at one of those rest stations that dot highways on the East coast. What I saw disturbed me. Let me preface my statements by saying that I am not about to, nor do I want to, turn this into a debate on the advantages or disadvantages of face masks.

What I do want to note is the danger of turning Americans into terrified mindless robots. I sat in the parking lot for a good fifteen minutes. During that time a fair number of people left their cars and entered the building in which the food and bathrooms are located. Masks were required to enter that building. I completely understand that people put on masks as they came closer to the doorways and kept their masks on as they exited. So far, so good.

What troubled me was seeing people putting on the masks as they were leaving their cars and keeping them on until they were back inside their vehicles. Frequently, once they were ten feet or so away from the building, they were not within 60 feet of another person.

Why were they masked when they were not in the vicinity of another human being? Why do I frequently even see people driving alone in their cars with masks firmly in place? Some, perhaps, have become accustomed to wearing masks for hours on end and they barely feel them anymore. I have trouble believing that is true for most people.

Heeding the warnings that masks potentially protect others from you suggests that there are others around you to protect. Wearing the mask in the footsteps of those who placed a string of garlic heads around their necks to ward off vampires is not a healthy sign for the Republic. There is nothing magical or mystical about a mask. If there is science behind the proscription, then it is not meant to mimic avoiding walking under a ladder or refusing to sit in the thirteenth row.

If you are wearing a mask when it has no possible advantage only because of fear of social censure, that is an even worse sign for our civilization. Following the crowd because you fear the crowd has led to many of society’s sins. Americans used to delight in movies and plays such as Twelve Angry Men or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Rugged individualism did not mean being anti-social but rather being a person who was committed to thinking for himself and sticking to one’s principles. Crowd-think was a scary scenario, not the desired outcome.

This was not a restful rest stop.

Crowd-think in a previous age? How about the times of Nimrod?
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My Mother + COVID = Super Stress

October 14th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

First, let me briefly state that I admire your work and it has helped me throughout my life to make important decisions while understanding why. It is so refreshing to know there are people like me who think similarly. Sometimes you can feel otherwise when living in a secular and materialistic world. 

My situation could be more common than I think, but I’m struggling with finding the right solution on how to handle it.

Ever since the pandemic, my mother has been completely paranoid. The hysteria has taken over and she is unable (or unwilling) to have any rational talk. My mother has viewed the government as a savior. Admittedly, my mother is stirring up conflicts with strangers to enforce the “safety guidelines” when she can.

This response by her is predictable. However, it has skyrocketed and has become something increasingly more difficult to accept. She lives in New York. The constant state of fear and handling of this pandemic there has driven her nearly off the rails. She wouldn’t even kiss my brother when he visited, stood away from him and wouldn’t leave her home without permission from the state. (Yet she challenges me on everything!!) It almost feels as if this pandemic gave her a reason to live?

Now I live in another state with relaxed guidelines, and low cases. My husband and I decided to have 3 people over our house this weekend for our daughter’s 11th birthday.

My mother flipped. “Are your guest wearing masks Krystle? Will this birthday bash be outside? Temperature check?” I just wanted to scream into my pillow. This entire pandemic has already stolen part of my life. Now it is stealing my relationship with my mother.

After I speak with her, I always feel low of myself. This was always true due to her anxiety. Constant replay of the past (most that never occurred but it’s in her mind). Victimization. Then when I decide to distance myself– it isn’t helpful either. This newfound “life purpose” with Covid 19 she has, really tested me. I do love my mother.

How can I handle this more constructively?     

Thank you and God bless,

Krystle

Dear Krystle,

Thank you for your kind words. You mention how comforting it is to know that others feel like you and in this vein, we think many people will see themselves reflected in your question.

We think your question has two elements: One, behaving properly towards your mother in terms of the Fifth Commandment, and, two, managing your own emotions.

God expects us to honor our parents and to love Him, not the reverse. Honoring parents doesn’t mean keeping a vague warm feeling towards them in our minds. Among other things, it very specifically means not insulting them or being rude to them and it means not contradicting them.

The media-induced hysteria, along with politically expedient posturing, has caused rifts in families and friendships. It has certainly exacerbated difficulties that were already there, as seems to be in your case. You are caught between wanting to live a calm, joyous life and honoring your mother.

We suggest three strategies for you to deploy. When an issue arises, you can see which category fits best and then employ the appropriate response.

  1. Your mother refusing to hug and kiss your brother is what we would call a level 3 problem. Sympathize with your brother for a few minutes if he asks you to, but don’t play it over and over with him, increasing internal resentment for your mother in both his heart and yours. Certainly, don’t be drawn into a confrontation with your mother over this. Not only isn’t this your issue but in the scheme of things, it isn’t even a big deal. Dwelling on it invites unnecessary unrest into your mind and life. Let it go.
  2. Your mother’s reaction to your daughter’s birthday party might be a Level 2 incident. We don’t recommend not telling your mother about the party (though that is sometimes the best plan) because it puts your daughter in the position of having to hide an event in her life from her grandmother. We would recommend having a planned response, perhaps something like, “We are completely following health  guidelines.” Use this phrase, repeatedly if necessary, without expanding on your reply. Try to change the subject, but make those the only words you say on the subject, over and over if necessary.
  3. A Level 1 problem is one that affects you directly. You love your mother and you also recognize that, in your own life, you can improve on how she deals with difficulties in her life (victimization, constant replay, etc.). Your job isn’t to change your mother, but to be aware that all of us tend to repeat the patterns we saw growing up unless we make a deliberate effort to do differently. You react with some pain when you see your mother reacting in an extreme manner and being very credulous about media propaganda.   Is it possible that this is an area you can work on yourself to learn a different and calmer response? Your brother being upset doesn’t mean that you have to be upset. You can “dial back” your language. Instead of saying, “This entire pandemic has already stolen part of my life. Now it is stealing my relationship with my mother,” you might say, “This pandemic has been stressful and it has also caused added problems in my relationship with my mother.” Acquire the tools that will allow you to respond with a calmer attitude in all areas of your life.

Most of us have had our economic, social, and psychological lives affected by COVID-19. To the extent possible, let’s use this difficult period to hone our skills for dealing with whatever we may face in the future.

Enjoy your daughter’s birthday party and reread Proverbs 3:25, “Do not fear sudden dread…”

Wishing you physical and emotional health,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan

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One More Double Standard

August 24th, 2020 Posted by On Our Mind 3 comments

Do you remember the very young boy who was sent home from school for biting his toast into the shape of a gun? He might even have —GASP— pointed it at a fellow kindergartener.

Well, have you seen the pictures of kids returning to school where a masked official points a temperature-recording gun-like object at the children’s foreheads before they are allowed in?

To paraphrase the words from the movie Casablanca: I’m shocked,  shocked to find that hypocrisy is going on here.

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Masked Strangers: a COVID Cost

July 24th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 36 comments

Going to the supermarket, library or store used to be a social activity. I may not have known anyone but, invariably, I chatted with those around me. Perhaps we discussed whether this year’s corn was sweet or if we should wait to buy, maybe we bonded for a few fleeting moments over a shared delight in an author, or we might have exchanged eyeball rolls at the annoyance of a computer glitch that delayed checkout. These transient interactions acknowledged a human fellowship.

Now, those around me view me not as a source of information and camaraderie but as a threat. How dare you come near me while I am picking out peaches? Are you going to make me sick? If there are smiles, one cannot see them. I sometimes don’t even recognize the masked face of those I do know; I certainly don’t relate to strangers.

What a loss! This week, I was remembering a Musing I wrote eight years ago that highlighted how severely damaging it is when something severs human relationships. Whether casual, neighborly connections get cut or if deeper and more intense connections between friends and family are hurt, the results for society are deadly serious.

Here is some of what I wrote then that is even more applicable today.

My husband and I were privileged to attend a siyum at our daughter and son-in-law’s house. A siyum marks the conclusion of learning a specific portion of God’s word. In this case, our grandson, Yosef, completed his very first section of the Mishnah—a compilation of ancient Jewish wisdom. Learning Mishnah marks a growth in maturity of thought and is a portal to deeper understanding. To mark the event, Yosef’s parents invited his teacher to a celebratory dinner.

What made this event particularly special is that we have known the young man who teaches Yosef since he was born. We met his parents when, as singles, they began attending my husband’s Torah classes. We rejoiced at their wedding; our families have shared many joyous and some sad times together as the teacher/student relationship evolved into one of close friendship. When our children were looking for a Torah teacher for Yosef, our friends’ oldest child was a natural choice.

When society functions successfully, this is how life works. People get to know, care for and trust each other. They interact in small family units, extended units of family and friends, and larger units like synagogue, church or business networks. When times are good they share Fourth of July barbecues, pick up groceries for each other and exchange recipes and books. In a time of need, such as illness, losing a job or a natural disaster like a hurricane, they support each other, providing not only physical assistance but also loving comfort.

Inevitably, as the government grows ever-bigger, family and friendship ties shrink. The more an impersonal government provides, the less people rely on each other. The less people rely on each other, the more they generally need government support. As taxes increase to provide more necessities and entitlements it forces more people to work longer hours, leaving them less time for strengthening ties to family and friends. When government is the first resource rather than the last one, forming relationships becomes optional and temporary. “What can you do for me” associations replace the traditional connections that are a vital, necessary part of successful living.

In the final analysis, the government cannot supply love, affection, compassion or charity. It can provide money and services, but not heart. It can provide a monthly check but it strips dignity. It can label you as needy but not recognize and encourage the sparks of your soul that turn you into a giver rather than a taker. It can fool you into thinking that you are self-sufficient, while preventing you from forming networks of community and recognizing that there is no such thing as self-sufficiency. Current society is devolving so that people relate more to the government than to each other. The sad results are poorer and more bitter lives.

Yosef’s teacher and his wife brought their newborn daughter to the siyum. Since my husband’s late parents were also part of the web of connection with our students and friends, four generations were spiritually present at the celebration. That kind of safety net cannot be equaled no matter how many billions of dollars a government spends.

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