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Don’t cling to what’s gone



This week, there’s undoubtedly a slight lifting of spirits in the country. Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s move to level-two lockdown, we are all feeling a move away from isolation and towards spring in the air.

Most of us have a sense of a little more freedom, and hopefully, are looking forward to small family Shabbos dinners. A little more interaction. Perhaps a dinner out with wine. These are all things that have lifted our spirits slightly.

However, we can’t ignore the fact that the virus hasn’t gone away, and people are still getting sick. And while as many as 82% are now healing, 18% are not. While our numbers are down, the virus is still rampant in South Africa.

More than that, our economy is in a dismal state, and millions of people cannot survive, let alone make ends meet.

That includes many in our community who are seriously battling. Our community organisations are stretched to the limit and many of us – this newspaper included – are desperately trying to figure out how we are going to survive.

And, it’s clear from the number of people making aliyah (see page 5) and emigrating to other parts of the world (page 4) that some people have lost hope in this country.

Many who have lost jobs and livelihoods, relationships, and loved ones in this tough year feel like they are at breaking point in spite of the president lifting lockdown to level two.

This has been an extraordinarily tough year for people. Some have shone through it, while others have really suffered. The reality is that although nobody chooses suffering, there are some who have refused to accept their dire situation and have made a plan. It isn’t easy for anyone. There are some who were happily ensconced in a job that they lost, and they have started a driving service to survive. Others have turned their restaurant into a shop for fascinating foods to buy and take home. COVID-19 has turned many of us into innovators, finding new ideas we never thought possible. I’m amazed at people who literally started successful businesses during lockdown because they believed they had to make a plan.

Let me make it clear: I’m not saying that those who are still suffering chose to do so or are just accepting their lot. I’m 100% sure that anyone who felt they could make a plan, has done so. I’m not running anyone down or saying they haven’t done enough. I am saying, however, that there are perhaps different ways of viewing things.

I read something beautiful this week that really resonated with me, and made me feel so much better about what has happened during COVID-19.

It read as a conversation with G-d, and was written by a man called John Roedel, who wrote these “conversations” on Facebook, later turning them into a book, to help others.

This particular one was around a sense many of us had that our lives were falling apart because things had gone wrong, and we had reached breaking point.

G-d advises John that he should stop clinging to the pieces that have broken off, and let them go. They are no longer meant to be a part of him and his life. They fell off for a reason.

G-d explains to John that he is actually meant to shed what has broken or fallen to pieces so that he can grow and evolve. “Stop clinging to pieces that are no longer for you,” says G-d.

John says he is afraid to change, and G-d explains that he isn’t changing, he’s becoming what he’s meant to be, what G-d created him to be. He just needs to stop clinging to what isn’t working or has already been destroyed. He also needs to accept that he isn’t broken, but that he’s breaking through the darkness, like dawn, into a new day and a new way of being.

I have paraphrased this, but for me, it’s a way of seeing the way forward in our own lives, in our community, and in this country. It’s a perspective shift rather to see things as possibilities, rather than doom and gloom.

Yes, there is a great deal that’s broken and can’t be fixed. There’s so much sadness and desperation. However, if we change the way we see things and look towards a new dawn, a world without all the pain, as individuals, as a community, and as a country, we can make it happen.

We all want our lives to get back to normal or to a new normal. We want to be happy. We want to be able to sleep at night without worrying about finances. We want to be happy with our lot.

We also want to see an end to corruption. We all want to stop poverty, and ensure everyone has a job. We want to be led by people we respect.

This may all seem like a pipe dream right now because of the dire situation we’re in, but it doesn’t have to be. Stranger things can and do happen.

It’s all about attitude and perspective.

On Sunday, around the world, people from our community stepped out of their comfort zone and exercised in the Jozi2Jerusalem 9 191 km challenge. This was a fundraiser, but it brought people from as far afield as Canada, Rwanda, Israel, England, Australia, and all over South Africa. It really got people’s spirits up, and made us all feel like one nation in exercising at the same time for the same reason during a time of isolation.

What I marvelled at as my family and I walked through the suburbs of Johannesburg is that it doesn’t take much to lift people’s spirits and find something positive to work towards. So, kol hakavod to Allan Nossel and Rabbi Ilan Herrmann for making this happen.

May we continue to find reasons to be positive and uplift our personal, communal, and national spirits!

Shabbat Shalom!

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