THE FOG THAT CAN BRING GOOD | Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

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Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

They have a name for it, and I just read a fascinating article that speaks to what many are feeling. It starts off slowly, things begin to be a bit blurry, weekdays become indistinguishable one from another, days bleed into nights, morning gets lost into the afternoon. Suddenly small tasks loom like huge insurmountable feats and that long list of things you were going to achieve at the beginning of the ‘Lockdown’ now taunt you as you flop about from one chore to the next. I talk to a lot of hiemisha people over the phone and have found that many feel bone-tired from barely moving. Surreptitiously this “new normal” brings with it a particular brand of low-level fatigue.

The wordsmiths have named this new condition “Brain Fog” and it isn’t as rare as one would like to think. We all lived in a world that had schedules, social lives and routines, instead, for many, we now have a patina of inertia that is punctuated by moments of fear and anxiety. Brain Fog is hard to explain, and most would feel guilty to admit to it. The weariness of lockdown, weighs down on one’s mind, and silently the brain gets gummed down with the sheer nothingness of a world that is time blind. In a brilliant article Eleanor Steafel explains all the psychological dynamics of this situation and how it is affecting the general community. Most would think that all this doziness is endemic in a society that lacks the discipline of a Torah life, and like so much more, our Hiemisha world would be free from such malady.

Then perhaps explain to me why so many Hiemisha Neshomahs are showing many of the symptoms of this newly minted condition? How many of us need reminding of the zmanim for daily tefillos?  Can we all say truthfully that we are not feeling just that little bit more sluggish and weary? Sweet Yidden tell me that they are feeling ‘shvach’ and unable to ‘get it together’. We are suffering from the wear and tear of being out of our usual comfort zone. Shul attendance, social contact, shopping without social distancing, all this and so much more make up the stimulus that keeps us on our feet.

Much of the problem is that subconsciously we are becoming overwhelmed and there is nothing to punctuate our thoughts. Yidden have daily markers in life which act as mini wakeup calls which invigorate our minds and souls. The emotional engagement we have with chaverim rouses us out of any torpor and keeps us from getting stuck into a depressive rut.

So what can we do to shake ourselves out of this fogginess? Well, I am not a therapist, nor a medical practitioner, but I can try to share some thoughts on the matter and at least allow ourselves to know we are not alone.

Firstly, we shouldn’t be too harsh on ourselves or those around us, this brain fog is part of the unique challenge that the Eibishter has set for us. Hashem knows who we are and where He has placed us. We will get through this with His help and find ourselves growing because of our experiences. The doctors are telling us we must reset our routines, create schedules in our lives that will keep our Avodas Hashem alive and thriving. We should all take walks (obviously in accordance to the rules set out by government and medical experts) Just a short shpatzier can help blow away the cobwebs and sharpen your mind.

We must accept that everything is in Hashem’s plan, and given where we are, Kaveuchal the Eibishter wants us to act positively. Learn with your young, or through Shiurim given over the phone or other media. Do this even if you’re tired, push yourself awake.

However, more than anything, we all have to remember what it is we are as Yidden.

We all say a number of brochos each morning at the beginning of davening. These are called Birchas HaShachar, and set the tone for our further prayers. When we are with a minyan (it should be soon) the olam says Amen after each brocha, accept the last one, “Who removes sleep from my eyes, and slumber from my eyelids.”  At the end of this one, we don’t reply Amen, instead we immediately say ‘Yehi Rotzon, and may it be Your Will….’ And with this we recite a moving paragraph wherein we ask for protection from evil and for the inclination to do good, this ends with “Who bestows beneficent kindnesses upon His people Israel.” At which point we all say a resounding Amen!

The Lubliner Rav, Rav Meyer Shapiro Ztl takes note of this interesting situation. Why don’t we say ‘Amen’ for the last blessings but say it at the prayer’s end?  The Tzadik explains that clearing your eyes from slumber isn’t enough, it doesn’t say much unless we use this gift for realising the astounding chesed of Hashem and asking Him to give us the awareness to see and do good in our lives. Only then do we intimate our understanding of why we wake at all, only then when the slumber is replaced with hopes of blessings can we say ‘Amen’ with a full heart.

We may be temporarily going through a period of Brain fog, but Hashem knows where we are and His Rotzon is our reality. We should wipe the slumber from our eyes, and see the kindnesses Hashem grants us. Hopefully and soon, we will be coming out of this challenge , and may it be the Will of Hashem, that when we are fully awake we will see and act upon doing only good for one another. And now let us all say Amen!



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