Being Sick Doesn’t Mean I have to be Miserable

Being Sick Doesn’t Mean I have to be Miserable
This meme has been the story of my last week and a half. My home has been a revolving door of this “SAFEK” epidemic circling the globe: one sick family member gets healthy only to be replaced by another healthy family member getting sick, and so on and so forth.
Today and yesterday I was the one down. My symptoms were minor relative to what the rest of my family went through, and I’m feeling mostly over it now. But there was a big difference between my first day and my second day sick. And in case you are in “safek”ville yourself I wanted to tell you what helped me feel better today than yesterday about my situation.
Yesterday, on my first day, I spent most of the day in bed. And I felt exhausted and awful. Not awful physically so much, my symptoms were mild, but emotionally. I spent the hours in bed feeling anxious about all the things I could be doing if I was feeling better, and feeling badly about how much time I was wasting being sick. And even though I spent hours doing the fun things I usually don’t have much time for, like reading and watching videos, doing these things only made me feel worse! Like a sick worthless Jabba the Hutt.
Today I also spent most of my day in bed. But I felt very differently about it. Because my neighbor gave me a cool little calendar with important yahrzeits in it, and I noticed that today (Tuesday) is the yahrzeit of Zusha of Anapoli. And lying sick in bed, I remembered the famous story about Reb Zusha and his brother Reb Elimelech after they were sent to prison on false charges:
(as retold on
As they awoke in their prison cell, Reb Zusha noticed his brother weeping silently. “Why do you cry?” asked Reb Zusha.
Reb Elimelech pointed to the pail situated in the corner of the room that inmates used for a toilet. “Jewish law forbids one to pray in a room inundated with such a repulsive odor,” he told his brother. “This will be the first day in my life in which I will not have the opportunity to pray.”
“And why are you upset about this?” asked Reb Zusha.
“What do you mean?” responded his brother. “How can I begin my day without connecting to G‑d?”
“But you are connecting to G‑d,” insisted Reb Zusha. “The same G‑d who commanded you to pray each morning, also commanded you to abstain from prayer under such circumstances. In a location such as this, you connect to G‑d by the absence of prayer.”
His brother’s viewpoint elated Reb Elimelech’s heart. The awareness that the waste-filled pail in the corner of the room allowed him the opportunity to enjoy an intimate — though different — type of relationship with G‑d inspired him so deeply that he began to dance. The two brothers were now holding hands and dancing in celebration of their newly discovered relationship with their Father in heaven.
And remembering this story transformed the way I experienced today, my second day in bed.
I was lying in bed. No strength to do the regular things I do that make me feel productive in my home and community and life. But resting and taking it easy was clearly what Hashem wanted from me. In fact, I was so exhausted I had no choice in the matter! Resting was clearly my mitzvah du jour. And while Covid and Strep and Flu cases are skyrocketing, for those of us hit by them, regarding this mitzvah, there is no SAFEK:)
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