As I arrive daily at my office, I reach for my Tallis and Tefillin. After donning them, I instinctively begin to head for the Shul, but, alas, the Shul, which sits just ten feet from my office, is dark and desolate and off-limits for public davening. Sometimes I sneak into the sanctified sanctum, hoping beyond hope to see mispallelim fill the tables with their siddurim and seforim. I pine for their presence. I crave and ache to see my fellow Jews gathered together in the tent of Hashem.
Yet, it is not meant to be. I look out onto the now dark empty room and watch the sun peek through the stain glass windows. The room is now depleted of its people, as it sits alone and lonely. It cries out for its mispallelim, yet, they are not to be found. What would I give to be able to daven just one tefillah with my people? How I crave to be able to make eye contact with my beloved congregants.
In my office, I automatically begin to prepare the next Dvar Torah or Shiur I will be delivering, and then reality sets in. There are no audiences with whom I can make eye contact. There are no smiling faces that brighten my day as I see them, and they see me, and we exchange an almost unnoticeable nod of the head, which represents so much. I can no longer send a secret eye message to the fourteen-year-old boy who can use just a drop more encouragement. He would, of course, bashfully flash me a slight smile acknowledging my gesture while simultaneously mentally telegraphing me that he has understood my silent memo.
I imagine once again watching the faces of all of those sitting in the Shul and knowing that each one of them (inclusive of myself) has their own particular and unique ‘peckel’ as I empathize with them. Yet, when we join together, even with our peckels, we become a unified front.
Somehow, when we are physically together, our troubles are temporarily banished from our minds. Now the Shul sits empty, alone, barren, and desolate. The Shul screams out to me in its desperate, forlorn state, “Please come back to me! I need you! I want to see you again!” Yet, the doors remain closed and shut.
There will be no direct eye contact at the “virtual shiur” this evening. Zoom will have to suffice.
As I daven at my shtender in my office, my Siddur cries out, “Where are the Omeins? Where are the “Yehei Shemei Rabbahs?” I suddenly recall a beautiful Torah thought, which would be the perfect finale of the Drosha I am about to deliver. Yet, there is no Drosha to deliver, as there are no human beings present in the Shul to hear any Drosha.
The Sifrei Torah are imprisoned behind solid steel doors. As I walk by the Aron Kodesh in the silent and dark cavernous Shul, I suddenly hear weeping. Is it the Shechina crying for His people?
Or perhaps the Sifrei Torah themselves are softly crying as they long to be caressed and kissed?
The question which haunts me day and night, day in and day out, is “why?” Why has this minuscule – invisible to the human eye – virus closed are our Shuls, caused our Shabbos and Yom Tov meals to be vacant of guests and caused so much pain, grief, and mourning? Why are we now forced to shop in stores in constant fear of being too close to the person standing only five feet from us?
Hashem, why has this fate befallen us? When will You let us return to Your home? I can live without being a guest at my neighbor’s home; however, I cannot live without being allowed into Your house! Hashem, I am so lonely. I am confined, incarcerated, and imprisoned in my home and office. The seats placed by my desk in which sat countless men, women, and children hoping I could bring them even a small measure of solace, now sit empty, bereft of any person.
They too long to be filled with a live human being. Hashem, who will sing to you Hallel on Rosh Chodesh and on Yom Tov? Who will sing out to you the beautiful Tefillah of Tal? Hashem, why has this befallen us?
I am so lonely! Aren’t you?