Day of Hope

Day 20. My day started as usual at 5 am. I prepared my daily Talmud class which on Sundays is at 7 am. Then I showered, got dressed, went downstairs to my office and taught my class. Then I surfed on the internet . Death. More people I know or know of passed away on Saturday. The news reports warn us to brace for more bitter days ahead.

With each day that passes it becomes more difficult to keep a positive attitude. Yet, I know that I must stay up beat; for myself and for all those who in one way or another are relying on me. But I worry. I worry about my family, nuclear and extended, in Maryland, in New Jersey, in St Louis, in New York, and wherever they may be. I worry about my friends, my community, my SLS family, my clients, my colleagues. I worry about all this and more.

I can’t function this way. I can not allow myself to linger in a state of despair. I need to hope and believe in that hope; hope for the day after. And I need to instill hope in others; hope and belief that we will indeed overcome; that we will soon see the sun rising on a beautiful new day for each of us, our families, our friends – for the world.

© Judah Lifschitz

Chai. Life.

Day 18. In Hebrew the number 18 corresponds with the word “chai”. Life. So I as end my third week at home I want to focus today not on the death that surrounds us but rather on the life that awaits us when this is all over. That life, that world, is a beautiful one. So let’s allow ourselves to hope that we will all remain healthy, persevere during these trying times, and emerge from our homes to once again enjoy all that is beautiful in this world.

What better way to look to the future than by enjoying several of my favorite images of that magnificent world that awaits us.

© Judah Lifschitz 2020

Economic Uncertanity

Day 17. With each day the economic impact of the pandemic comes into sharper focus. I am not speaking of the stock market but rather the impact on individual businesses large and small who are all focused on assessing the impact of a months-long shut down of the economy on their businesses. Of course, the impact differs from business to business and industry to industry. Just yesterday I worked with several clients whose specific experiences and forecasts for the future were different but whose overall concerns were identical.

My preliminary assessment is as follows:

  1. Every business, large and small will be adversely impacted.
  2. Businesses that have taken preemptive cost reduction steps will have a much better chance of survival than those who delay.
  3. Leveraged businesses are at much greater risk than non-leveraged businesses and thus survival strategies will differ.
  4. The uncertainty regarding the duration of the economic shut down requires management to reassess daily and to proactively prepare additional (more drastic) steps for possible implementation in the future.
  5. The government Covid-19 stimulus package will save businesses that are able to qualify and are awarded the assistance.

The most troubling unknown – “When will this be over?”

No one has the answer to this question.

Carousel on the Mall

The carousel on the Mall
© Judah Lifschitz 2020

April Fools Day is no joke

Day 16. This is no April Fools joke. This is real. People are dying and yesterday even President Trump was forced to admit that social distancing, notwithstanding, hundreds of thousands of Americans will die and Americans will be under stay at home orders for weeks if not months to come. The United States is in a battle for “control” with a killer.

Control. We all want to be in control. We all try to chart the course of our lives and destiny . We hate not being in control. We are uncomfortable when we can’t predict our future; whether long term and short term. And even though we know in our hearts of hearts that we can never really be in control, we still try to have some modicum of what we tell ourselves is “control” over our lives. The Coronavirus is demonstrating for all of mankind that though we may believe (or fool ourselves) that we have or can exert control over our lives, the truth is otherwise.

Years ago I translated and published my first book titled, Heaven Sent, Stories of Faith and Effort. The original book , in Hebrew, was authored by a Jerusalem rabbi and its theme, expressed via stories, was a simple one. When it comes to money – earning a livelihood, making investments, wealth, poverty etc., man is not in control. He can and must make an effort but in the end man should know that success and failure is in His hands.

Whether one is a person of faith or not, each day’s brutal developments of this pandemic demonstrate all too vividly that we can not “control” the Covid-19 virus. All we can do, what we must do, is fight back and try to limit the human and economic destruction which it is causing.

We are not in “control”. It is an important life lesson.

Stay at home

Day 15. Yesterday the Governors of Maryland and Virginia and the Mayor of DC all issued mandatory Stay at Home orders. And while no one can say when these orders will ultimately be lifted ,it is pretty clear that we will be staying at home for weeks, at the very least.

In some respects I have have found working from home and staying at home a bit less stressful than my normal routine. My typical day – even on the weekend – is jammed packed by design. I often tell people that I view time as an enemy. Therefore I start my day early in the morning and end late at night with little downtime in between. I am up y no later than 4:45 am; out of the house by 6:30 am; in my office no later than 8:30; with my first meeting often at 7:30 am at a local favorite breakfast cafe; home around 7:30 pm to eat dinner; out by 8:30 pm to attend or teach a nightly Talmud class; and home at 10:00 pm. Over these past 15 days not having to commute and not having to run from meeting to meeting has reduced the stress of maintaining my hectic schedule. The problem is that while its nice to have less stress working from home means that I am less physically active. That is not good.

Normally I spin on Sundays and workout with a trainer at our law firm’s gym twice a week. Since I have been working remotely I have substituted 2 more spin classes in place of the personal training. But what’s is missing is all the going from here to there; the walking, the running, the daily physical activity that you do not even think of as “exercise”. So, this morning as soon as I complete this blog post I am going to get out of here and take a brisk walk, mild run in my neighborhood and see if this will work as a replacement for all that daily hustle bustle that I am missing as I comply with the Stay at Home orders.

The New Normal

The New Normal
© Judah Lifschitz 2020

Hand Written Signs

Day 14. I was in New York City the entire week of 9/11. I was representing the State of New Jersey in a large construction case and would stay in midtown Manhattan at the Penn Club and take the train each morning to Trenton. On the morning of 9/11 I left the Penn Club at 6:30 am, proceeded to Penn Station, and boarded a train to Trenton to take a deposition that day. By 10 am the deposition was interrupted and the world changed. Ultimately, I made it back to Manhattan that night and spent the rest of the week in NY/NJ.

I vividly recall the walls of Penn Station lined with hand written signs and pictures of the missing whose families were desperately looking for information about their missing loved ones. It was, to say the least and the obvious, terrible. Tears welled up in my eyes as I walked passed the pictures of the missing. The signs and pictures remained for a few weeks and soon were, unfortunately, no longer needed as the 3,000 plus dead were identified and confirmed.

This pandemic is worse. We have now reached the point (and the worst has yet to come) that every day begins for me with checking the internet news to see how many and who have died. And all too often I know someone who has been was felled by this virus.

I have never experienced war first hand. Now I am.

Conclusion of Sabbath

Day 13. The conclusion of the Sabbath brought news of growing numbers of infected, and deaths. It seems as if a day does not go by when I do not learn of someone I know who has been infected or is in critical condition or has passed away. Just today I learned of a close friend’s brother who is in critical condition on a ventilator in NYC and then learned that the father of one of my grandson’s friends passed away in his 50s from Covid-19. And this is not the end. There will be more.

How do we combat our feelings of hopelessness.?How do we come to terms with the glaring fact that we do not have control over our very lives ? For those of faith there is prayer; there is a deep a belief that the Almighty has a plan.

For those who struggle with faith – indeed for all of us – this pandemic is a teaching moment. this virus is teaching us a bitter but important lesson. One which if we accept and integrate into our minds and hearts will enable us to get through the coming weeks and months to create better world when this is all over.

What do I mean? Consider the following: while the virus appears very much to be in control the is one thing we can do save ourselves is to practice social distancing, stay home and avoid contact with others. At first such practices appear rather selfish. But further analysis reveals that these practices are the very opposite of selfish. They are intended to save all of us. Because we are all equal in the eyes of Covid-19, we can defeat the virus only when we all follow the guidelines. No one person on earth can stop the virus. Only the united cooperative effort of each of us can bring an end to this madness.

We should learn an important lesson from this new reality. “I”, “Me”, my selfish needs and desires will not get us to where we need to be. Only when each of us thinks not simply about ourselves but rather when we unite and care about others as much, if not more than we care about ourselves, only then will there be an end to the pandemic.

We can combat our fear and hopelessness right now by taking affirmative action to help someone else through this crisis. A parent, a child, a friend, a stranger. There are many opportunities to help others right from your home. Let’s not wait until its all over to change. Let’s change right now.

Day 11. All this talk about numbers – numbers of infected, numbers of deaths, percentage comparisons to the flu, all these statistics – they depersonalize the tragedy that is this pandemic. The stats and the various interpretations we hear from different analysts do not and can not convey to those of us who are healthy and cloistered in the safety of our homes the true insidious character of this pandemic. That quickly changes, however, the first time you open a newspaper or read on the internet about someone you know who has become critically ill or has died from the Covid 19 virus.

Having grown up in New York City and with children , grandchildren and most of our family living in the New York metropolitan area, I follow closely the situation there. Each day, as the crisis there worsens, I learn of friends and acquaintances who have contracted the virus; some of whom are so critically ill that requests to pray for them fill social media and WHATSAPP chats. I am talking about people who were healthy, vibrant, living full lives, with families – and suddenly they are in critical condition fighting for their lives or worse.

So quite frankly I don’t want to hear anymore about “statistics”. I don’t want to hear anymore about how the virus primarily kills people over 60. I don’t want to be told anymore that the percentages do or don’t equal those of the flu. I do not want to hear anymore about how one country’s stats do or not compare with another. All that information is too sterile.

I want to focus on people. Real people like you and me. This killer is real. It is personal. It is killing good, healthy , vibrant people. People who should not be dying. We need to understand that. We need to be there for these people, for their families.

In my heart and mind I know that He has a plan. As I frequently tell my kids, the Almighty does not have to tell us what His plan is. What we need to do is pray; pray for all the people who have been stricken with this terrible disease, pray for families that are suffering, pray for those who who have lost their jobs or been forced to close their businesses. Pray for mankind.

And then we need to act. We need reach out. We need to help. There are plenty of people out there who need our help.