Routinely Changing Routine - Parshat Shemini

It's just a flu. It's also a lot more. The coronavirus has challenged many assumptions – societal, personal, political, economic and more. It has challenged people who have experienced social distancing in so many ways. Some people have lost their livelihood and at this point no one can say when it will return. Due to this, some have for the first time in their lives had to ask for financial assistance or charity. Others had friends or relatives who were afflicted by the flu – some persevering while others did not. We do not know when the contagion will end and who or what else it may effect.

As I reviewed this week's parsha which tells of the sudden and tragic deaths of Nadav and Avihu I was struck by the story and the aftermath. The tragedy occurred during the festive occasion of the completion of the Mishkan.1 It took people by surprise- even Moshe and Aharon. There are many opinions - some quite startling - about how those two great leaders reacted and how they conducted themselves. The range of opinions among the classical commentaries is so varied that it allows for legitimization of many different reactions to trauma and death as they returned to their routine.2  

Today, too, COVID-19 has challenged us in numerous ways. And no one knows where this is going and when it will end. We are challenged to adjust to a new routine. Some have been challenged by loss of livelihood, emotional distress, loss of a friend or family member or by anxiety over the situation. Some are adjusting by engaging in charity work, others by strengthening ties with families and friends some are using humor, while others are just enjoying the time off.  Accordingly, some have found a way to be thankful for the situation while others have cursed it.

A routine is meant to serve us...

We are in a period where we expected ourselves to adjust to this new situation which is constantly changing. How do we respond to such a situation? We are living in a time of a routinely changing routine.  By the time we find one coping mechanism, the government comes out with new protocols and/or restrictions. You can go out. You can't go out. Put on a mask. Masks are unnecessary.

Everybody will respond differently. But let that response come through conscious and responsible choice. Of course, we cannot expect to always live up to that standard. We are human after all. But we are also human enough to pull ourselves up and rise to the challenge and take ourselves and our lives responsibly. After all, a routine is meant to serve us. We are not supposed to be slaves to our routine.

Stories of human courage and altruism abound. A 16 year old girl, who heard of a neighboring family with 6 children and both parents became sick, took upon herself to care for those children and moved in to their home.

A lady brought her neighbor some groceries the other day, and noticed she didn't look well. But instead of keeping her distance, she laid her on the couch and called 911. It turned out the woman didn't have the virus . . . she was having a heart attack, and the neighbor saved her life.3

The routine may be shaky. The rules may change. We as humans are flexible enough to meet that routinely changing routine responsibly.


In memory of Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and others lost to COVID-19 and in prayer to God for a speedy recovery for those afflicted by it.


  1. Vayikra 10:1-3
  2. I've written about this in a previous blog -

Have A Great Shabbat!laughing

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