It was only a few months ago when the idea of social distancing frightened us, and we were certain that it would be a disaster. We now know it wasn’t at all like what we expected – in fact, it
turned out to be quite nice. Children like being home with each other and with their parents. Parents enjoyed having their kids home, having a life together. Couples who were on the
verge of divorce suddenly saw each other differently and were grateful to have each other. If anything, it has been a shock to discover how unnatural our lives had become without even realizing it.
Going forward when quarantine is over completely, do we want to go back to that life? I don’t think so. Even if we wanted to, we shouldn’t – we should not go back to a state of mind we’re getting away from the children is absolutely necessary, where we avoid too much time with your spouse because it’s going to be painful. We shouldn’t want to go back to a toxic work environment and we don’t want to send our children back to the schools the way the schools were.
Instead, let’s think of a better model – a model where we have been freed by this lockdown. We have been liberated from our old habits and liberated from thinking that there is only one way for life to work. We have learned that we can live without all the things we thought we needed. Not
only can we live, we can actually relax. We can enjoy our families. We can even get to know ourselves better. We’re more alive now we discovered where our lives really happen.
You go to work because you need to take care of your family – that’s perfectly moral, noble, and selfless. So how did it happen that this workplace where decent human beings get together to feed their families and to support life became so toxic? The real reason we need to go to work is not because we need to eat – it’s because God wants us to meet people we wouldn’t otherwise meet. Because of our need to work, we venture outside of our bubbles, meet people from other cultures and parts of the world, and learn to help one another.
It would be a noble environment to go to work every morning with the intention of making the world a more livable place; making life more comfortable, more pleasant, more enjoyable for as many people as you can. Every time you meet someone you’ve never met before, it’s not just a new customer or a new a new avenue of business – it’s a new opportunity to do something really kind.
Similarly, the main job of a teacher and of a school is not to fill a kid’s head with information – that’s too mechanical. The main job of a school is to cultivate and stimulate the child’s enjoyment and pleasure in using their mind. As human beings, our greatest gift is our mind and our greatest pleasure is understanding and knowledge. Schools should support that first and foremost.
There’s a lot we can do to make life livable, and the blueprint for a life that’s livable is the Torah. The reason Jews are still here is because we have a lifestyle that is livable. While external forces were enough to destroy the Jewish people forever, our internal health the healthy lifestyle has kept us alive. The core of that lifestyle is that our relationship with God is personal. Jewish life doesn’t happen in a synagogue; it doesn’t happen in public. Jewish life lives in the Jewish home because God looks at us as individuals not as groups.