I thought that I wouldn’t have anything to say today, as usually post-Shabbat (post-Sabbath) posts are about shul (synagogue) and social anxiety, and shul has been shut down by coronavirus.  However…

I had to daven (pray) at home over Shabbat as all the United Synagogue and Federation shuls have been closed by coronavirus (the United Synagogue is the main Modern Orthodox organisation in the country and the Federation is a large moderate Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) organisation.  My parents’ shul is United Synagogue and mine is Federation).  The US and Fed said to close the shuls and NOT to form private minyanim (prayer groups) in houses.

While I was davening last night, I could hear people intoning outside.  I looked out my window and our next door neighbours have got a minyan in their garden, spaced out so no one is less than two metres from anyone else.  I got quite worried and angry about that.  I felt it would be easy for one of these people to pass something to my neighbours’ children (my neighbours have a big Hasidic family with several young children) who could pass it in the street to us.  I can’t work out how realistic that fear is, whether I should tell them that Mum has cancer and that I worry they are putting her life at risk.

I don’t want to wheel out all the negative stereotypes about Haredim and especially Hasidim (that they are meticulous about ritual law, but don’t care about secular law, or good manners to people outside the community etc.), but I do feel upset and worried about it and unsure what to do.  It seems wrong to ask them not to daven, and I’m not even sure what the infection risk realistically is, but it worries me, especially if they do this every Shabbat or even every day.


On a related note, it was just said on the news that cancer patients could be told to self-isolate for twelve weeks.  This is scary.  A whole load of questions came into my head: will it just be Mum or will Dad and I have to stay indoors full-time too?  Could I go for a run?  Can I apply for jobs?  (If there are any.)  Would the cleaner be allowed to come?  Will the man who cleans our oven each year before Pesach (Passover) be allowed to come?

The latter is a major worry for me.  It’s hard to explain.  Basically, for the special Pesach dietary laws, the oven has to be cleaned thoroughly (preferably with chemical cleaners that will render any leftover food crumbs inedible) and then heated for an hour at the maximum temperature.  We could do this without the oven man, although he uses extra-strong chemicals, which feel extra-reassuring for my religious OCD, but he also removes, cleans and replaces the oven’s fan, which we could not do.  Now, a few years ago, it looked like he wouldn’t be able to come one year and we asked my parents’ rabbi what to do.  He said he has asked a dayan (religious court judge i.e. a super-senior rabbi) what to do and that cleaning the fan is not strictly necessary, but I know I would find it stressful and triggering not to do it and would feel that I’m eating non-kosher for Pesach food.

I feel like it’s taken me years to get to stage where I’m comfortable with what we do for Pesach and my parents are comfortable with what I’m doing, and suddenly this equilibrium we’ve all struggled to build is going to be disrupted.  And even beyond the religious OCD, the autism does not do well with sudden massive changes to routine if we are housebound for three months (let’s not even ask the question of how many extra months coronavirus is going to add to the waiting list for my autism assessment).


Other than that it was an ordinary Shabbat: insomnia on Friday night, late sleeping on Saturday morning and an accidental two hour doze in the afternoon meaning I’m not tired at 1.00am.  I’m trying not to beat myself up about my sleep pattern at the moment and just accept it.  I read quite a bit: a chunk of the Doctor Who novel I’m reading, a couple of chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) in Hebrew and a bit of one of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s books about God, the soul and the afterlife, If You Were God.  Jews strangely don’t talk about these subjects much, so it’s useful to check in and see that what I believe is broadly what I’m supposed to believe.

After Shabbat Dad and I went to a big kosher supermarket in Golders Green to get some of the things we couldn’t get last week at our small local kosher supermarket.  The roads were empty.  There was a queue outside the shop, but this was just to limit the number of people in the store at any time, not to contain panic buying.  A few things had sold out, but we got most of what we wanted.  There were free plastic gloves.  My Dad took a pair, but from what I heard they don’t do very much, so I didn’t, but then I regretted it a bit (what if Mum gets something? etc.).  I did use a wipe to wipe the trolley grip.  The number of people inside wasn’t too overwhelming, but I found the muzak really annoying.

I was naughty in that I got irritated with my Dad and was sarcastic.  I’m trying not to do this so much, but it’s hard, because we don’t communicate very well at the moment.  We don’t shout or whatever, but our communication styles are different.  His long-winded, detailed and repetitive way of talking confuses me (autism brain is not always good at dealing with irrelevant details), while he doesn’t like me interrupting him to ask him to get to the point.  There can also be issues where we disagree both see things in a different, but very black-and-white way (again, autism) and argue until something breaks the deadlock.  Anyway, when I get annoyed with my parents I tend to get sarcastic (which I generally don’t do with other people), which isn’t good.  I’m trying to work on it, but it’s hard.  Then Dad hit me in the face when we were emptying the trolley.  This was an accident, but I probably deserved it.  It didn’t really hurt, but I was a bit stunned.

Then I came home exhausted and have monumentally failed at my “No screens after 11pm” rule, given that it is nearly 1.00am and I am still on the computer plus I intend to finish watching the episode of Star Trek Voyager I started watching earlier before I go to bed.  Given my messed up sleep in the last twenty-four hours and the psychological stress I’m under and the need for relaxation, I’m not sure I could do much better, realistically.

6 thoughts on “Disequilibrium

  1. They can’t give it to you unless you go near them or they sneeze/cough on you. It’s an easy virus to catch, but not quite as easy as that. Thankfully. Isolating as much as possible is very important, even (I hate to say it) for your dad and you–or anyone who comes in contact with your mom. I don’t go within 6 feet of my parents when I drop off things for them. It’s really hard because they’re 91 and 87 and want to spend time with me. Who knows how much longer I’ll have them around? It’s all so complicated and scary. I think you’re doing the best you can under the circumstances and handling all this stress as well as anyone. Better than I would, in many ways.


  2. Wearing gloves in a supermarket would serve a similar function to being able to wash your hands upon leaving. If you touch your face with contaminated gloves, that defeats the purpose. When taking gloves off, it should be done in a way that keeps any germs on the gloves from getting on your hands (i.e. by tugging one glove off by the fingers, then tucking the fingers of the clean hand under the wrist of the other glove and pulling it off inside out).

    If the neighbours are maintaining social distance with their davening, they’re probably not spreading it by coughing on each other. However, if they’re not practicing proper hand hygiene, they could be spreading it by contact. In terms of anyone passing it to your family, they’d have to cough in your immediate vicinity or touch things that you’re touching.


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