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Who is the prime minister here?

Friday, 13 March, 2020 - 7:12 am

Do you know anyone who, while having a panic attack, had someone shout at him: “Calm down!” and he calmed down?

I admit that I have not been very calm in the past few days, and, to tell the truth, I was anxious. This virus, and the information arriving from all over made me anxious. I tried to tell myself to calm down, but it didn’t really help.

This morning my anxiety disappeared. Do you know why? Because I have this thing, that when I start to take charge of a situation, I feel that everything is under control and I calm down. This morning I understood that I have to take charge of this crisis.

No – I don’t have to take charge of the world crisis, nor that of Switzerland and not even that of Basel. I just have to handle the crisis of my family and the Chabad House that I am responsible for. To try to understand what I can do and what I can’t. To balance the risks and the possible gains, and to rid myself of the panic and the anxiety.

Thanks to Divine Providence, a short time ago I heard a recording of my fellow shaliach, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich of Beijing, who has been coping with a state of emergency for a few months already. In the recording, he explained what they are doing in order to protect themselves and those around them. So I am sharing his basic points with you:

a. The virus is like any raw food, which spoils when it isn’t kept refrigerated or preserved. Cold is good for it, heat spoils it, and disinfectant kills it immediately.

b. It cannot go through our skin, only through the orifices of our body, which are situated in the area of the face. And the hands, of course, touch them frequently. We must prevent it from entering these orifices.

If we maintain a high level of personal hygiene, as the authorities tell us to do, Be’ezrat Hashem we will remain safe.

One thing is clear: Panic doesn’t help; it only gets in the way.

So said Rabbi Freundlich.

My friends, a person cannot manage himself and his life when he, in turn, is being managed by panic.

Imagine a ship tossing in a storm. Everyone is shaking and shouting, stressed and afraid, but only if the captain is stressed, shaking and anxious. The moment the captain comes out and says, “Friends, we can control the situation if we just take certain steps,” not only will the passengers calm down, but they will come and help him.

A believing Jew knows that Hashem gives each and every one of us the strength to cope with whatever lands on him. The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to quote the words of Hashem (according to the Midrash) that were spoken to Moshe about building the Mishkan (Tabernacle): “I’m not asking that they do according to my power, but according to their power.” We have to believe in ourselves, because we have the strength needed. It was instilled in us by Hashem.

Forget the whole world, the whole city – just look at your family. There is a storm. Nothing is clear. For a moment, become your family’s Prime Minister and Minister of Health. Learn what you must do, give the orders clearly and quietly to the members of your household, and that’s it.

Oops, I forgot to connect this all with this week’s parasha. It says in the parasha, Ki tisa et rosh Bnei Yisrael…” (meaning, “When you take a census of Bnei Yisrael”);  literally: when you lift up the head of Bnei Yisrael. So let’s lift up our heads, and look forward, because it is in our hands.

 

Calm down!

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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