What would it be like if everybody in the world, Jewish or not, observed Shabbat for one day? How about a week, or four weeks, or two months? Three?
We’d all be pretty tired of Shabbat.
After all, Shabbat is a one-day break from routine, to rest, to be with family, to study, and to desist from your regular work. One day a week. Just one.
This coronavirus pandemic has created the Shabbaton—the extended Shabbat—of the century, all over the world. It has, in some way, touched everyone, even if it is only the worry that there may not be enough toilet paper. The pandemic has either isolated those among us who live alone, or it has enforced a togetherness we didn’t exactly invite. People who go to jobs are terrified, and small businesses will likely have no job to go back to. Some Shabbat. Anxiety, terror, illness, financial ruin.
One of the most frightening things about this pandemic is that it is happening during a time of mistrust of our nation’s institutions. We blame “the government” when we really mean politicians. There are many, many federal, state, and local workers that are trustworthy, hard-working, and as scared as we are. Mistrust of politicians is understandable. What is not understandable is our mistrust of scientists, doctors, and pretty much anybody with a good education. We used to revere those people and want to be like them. Without them, the void is filled with opportunists, lies, crazy theories, and danger. Real danger.
Still, there are stories of epic generosity between people. That doctors and nurses and cops are heroes is a given (though not said often enough), but now we are recognizing the contributions of the workers at grocery stores, fast food restaurants, the post office, and gas stations. Maybe we will start to pay them a living wage.
After September 11, 2000, people were treating each other better. For a little while. Then we went back to our old, impatient, self-absorbed ways, if we were that way before. How will we handle it this time?
The biggest rest during this pandemic is for Mother Earth. Some of us, not being able to go to school or church or the mall or the movies, are walking around outside more. Gasoline usage is way down. Skies over major population centers are clearing. And, seismologists report that they can better hear what’s going on inside the earth, without as many cars and airplanes and general human activity. We’re giving the earth a break.
This may be the best news of all. We travel and trample and exploit this earth with reckless abandon most of the time. Some even make a good living for themselves and their shareholders that way. We take our own bags to the store and recycle and, some of us, buy electric cars. We kid ourselves about where those bags and all the plastic and the electricity for those cars comes from. We think we’re done.
This pandemic has told us—no, forced us—to slow down. To stop taking so much. To work less. To be quieter and to listen more. To play and to be creative. To make more love. To do only those things that sustain life. To consider our fellow man. To reflect.
So, Shabbaton and on and on…