The Coronavirus and the Community

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

“Most of you certainly do not want me sitting at your table,” Dini Freundlich, Chabad emissary to China, opened her remarks at the annual convention of women emissaries of Chabad. Approximately 3,000 of them from throughout the world have gathered in New York this week. Dini, who recently departed China with her children, leaving her husband behind, delivered tonight’s main speech:

“For the last 19 years we have been emissaries in Beijing and we always thought we had no community. Sometimes we have had more than 300 people for a Shabbat meal but most of that constantly changing group – tourists, students, business people, El Al security personnel – will not be with us next Shabbat. But our purpose, which we learned from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, is to make other Jews feel at home, even for the short time they may meet up with us. The Rebbe would quote from the Ba’al Shem Tov: ‘A soul comes down into the world for seventy or eighty years in order to do a single favor for another Jew, whether materially or, spiritually’. We need to continually leave our comfort zone in order to help others.

“Recently, the coronavirus was discovered in China. However, within this great crisis and the enormous anxiety that came with it, I discovered something remarkable. Ya’arah, whom we hosted 10 years ago, called and said she would start lighting Shabbat candles and pray for our health. Dror suddenly announced that he would give additional tzedakah this week and dedicate it to us. A family who came to China for medical treatment 15 years ago renewed their connection with us. I am amazed by the amount of love being sent our way from the most unexpected sources. During these days I have been saying to myself: so we did establish a community after all. It may be an unconventional community that is not physically present in Beijing, but when we do chesed, when we touch another person, the eternal influence cannot be estimated as our souls are attached forevermore.”

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סיון רהב-מאיר

Sivan Rahav-Meir is a media personality and lecturer. Married to Yedidya, the mother of five. Lives in Jerusalem. She works for Israel TV news, writes a column for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, and hosts a weekly radio show on Galei Zahal (Army Radio). Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands more listeners throughout the world.
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