Although we’re apart in these Covid times, in some ways we’re more connected. The Maharal in his commentary on Avos (6:1) says that happiness flows from completeness, just as grief is the result of loss and deficiency. One of the things that makes us feel complete is connecting to the people in a community. When I’ve spent Shabbos in an out-of-town community, the degree of connection among the members is palpable. In an out-of-town shul or community each person’s contribution is needed more, leading to a greater sense of connection. This is a great benefit of an out-of-town community.
Connection and happiness can be improved in any community. Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi seforim, teaches that the goal of chesed is to increase our connection to others. There are many opportunities to give in our Shuls, on an institutional or personal level. A member of my morning minyan moves the talis and tefillin from storage to each person’s seat. This act creates an unbelievable bond between him and the members.
In addition to acts of kindness, we can also create connections in our minds and hearts. A few years ago, I was on a small 240 seat plane and there were 11 orthodox Jews who were sitting in the last number of rows. As we took off I observed several of them saying Tehillim and/or Tefillas HaDerech. At that point I felt a strong connection to a group that was collectively acknowledging our Creator. As the Ramban at the end of Parsha Bo writes “the purpose of raising our voices in prayer and the purpose of Shuls and the merit of communal prayer is that people should have a place where they can gather and acknowledge that G-d created them and caused them to be and they can publicize this and declare before Him, ‘We are your creations’”.
Covid-19 is connecting us together through a common crisis. We’re working hard to stay connected through technology. We’re yearning to go back to our Shuls and raise our collective voices in prayers.
Our purpose in life is to connect to G-d and to connect to other people with our thoughts, emotions and actions. In the process, we increase our happiness and more importantly take a step towards that day when “Hashem will be One and His Name will be One”. May the merit of our efforts in this Covid Crisis bring us closer to that day.