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To Me or Not to Me

What is the best way to take care of yourself? I spoke with someone the other day who felt that, since they were not in any of the high risk categories, they were ok with going to the store whenever they wanted, and that they did not need to wear gloves or a mask, because they weren't worried about dying from this virus. I explained that they should be thinking about the possibility that they may even get it and not be symptomatic, which would be the best possible scenario for them to be afflicted by this. Wouldn't it be wonderful if most of the people in the world who are exposed to the virus, get the virus, never have symptoms at all, get past it, and never even know they have it, until one day at a doctor's visit, when they are checking for... cholestoral, blood sugar, etc., they do the COVID-19 test and you find out that sometime in your past, you had it, and now you are immune. Despite the fact that I worry about anyone getting it at all, if this is what it would be like for most people - that would be wonderful. And it could be a true story.

However, many people who are exposed to it, are having terrible reactions to it: breathing problems with lungs being compromised in ways that last long after the rest of the symptoms are gone; fever that won't go away for weeks; and many, many people die. 

If you are one of the people who are asymptomatic, but are a carrier - you absolutely can be the cause of someone else dying by exposing them to the virus. Right now the experts are saying that the best way to avoid that is to avoid ANY situation where we come in contact with other people. If we are in contact with others, stay a safe distance AND wear a mask. WASH YOUR HANDS (for at least 20 seconds with soap and water). It is an incredibly easy way not to be responsible for someone else's death, or your own. 

You have already heard all of that - although some people don't seem to realize that, even if they feel great, they can be the cause of someone else's death.

In Jewish tradition, there are two quotes that remind us to take care of ourselves. One is "Bishvili Nivra Ha'Olam" ("for my sake was the world created"). I loved that quote as a teenager, and made a little wall hanging of it. The Talmud teaches that we should keep that on our lips at all times (but put in our pocket something that says: "From dust did I come and to dust do I return.") When I thought about the world being created for me, it wasn't about power, empowerment, or selfishness. It meant something like - my experience of the world is through my eyes. If you and I meet and speak to each other, then walk away from each other, the world follows me. I see the birds and the clouds from my perspective. I also realize that everyone else does too. We are each made "B'tzelem E-lohim" / "in the image of G-d" and have the potential of seeing the world in awesome and meaningful ways. If I was seeing the world through my eyes, and the world was created for my sake, then I had a responsibility to do what I can to take care of that world, and keep it holy. 

The other quote, that you hear me say very often is by Rabbi Hillel: Im ein ani li, mi li? If I am not for myself, who will be for me? I often find that I am so consumed with taking care of the world that I forget to take care of me. What does that even look like? How do I do that? One way I am reminded to do is to sleep enough, eat healthy, exercise (who had time? - Make time.) Obligated to take care of ourselves. 

I believe that I am not alone in this world, and if my world includes other people, I am also obligated to take care of them. 

I urge you to stay safe. Try not to be in places where there are other people at all - this is a temporary situation. We are blessed to have phones and other technology to keep in contact while staying away. We can even shop without ever being near another person. It is amazing.

If you can take care of yourself in this way, you are also taking care of others - and "your" world. 

Tue, December 1 2020 15 Kislev 5781