Going to shul over Sukkoth felt somewhat like gaining access to the Business Class lounge. Aspiring entrants wait nervously in line for their documentation to be carefully checked. Information is recorded and physical features scrutinised before finally being waved in to a space that is spread out, spacious and socially just a little awkward. Much like a business- class lounge, it also presents a magnificent opportunity to “people watch”.
Which is what I did when, after a seven-month absence, I went back to shul this past weekend.
Covid 19 is very clearly a social disease. And despite what they might have told us, it is not the diabetics, the bald or the aged who are at risk, but those who don’t have the ability to follow the social rules that pandemics ask us to. One morning in shul and it became clear why some had already contracted the disease and why others would soon follow.
The service that I went to, took place outside. Chairs were spaced a good few meters apart and each person was given a seat for their posterior and one for their luggage. There was hand sanitizer everywhere, anyone called up to the torah did so from their seats and mask wearing was mandatory. Mingling was kept to a minimum. By most. Best of all was the efficiency which meant that the whole thing was done and dusted in one hour and fifty minutes.
But not everyone was able to manage. It was fascinating to observe those who simply could not “get” what was expected of them. A few cases in particular caught my attention: someone would take a carefully placed chair and move it to a non-careful place; another would come and simply stand in close proximity between two people; and where masks where seen more as a face decoration than a preventative tool.
In observing them, I realised that these are the people who on a Zoom call would not look to see that the camera focus is not up their nose, that they are the ones who might walk out the house before checking that they have not buttoned their shirt to their pants zipper and who would unquestionably leave a patch of hair on their cheek when shaving. They are the ones, I realised that day, who are most at risk and who might well kill us all.
Until now I had no appreciation of how dangerous a lack of social awareness could be. Now I am certain that it is potentially deadly.
I have often told my children that I would unlikely hire a person who did not button their collar down if the shirt required it to be done. Because it meant that they could not see what was clearly in front of them and that their attention to detail was lacking. It sounds harsh, but the reality is that we need to be aware of not only those around us, but how we appear and how we impact on our environment. Covid has underscored that lesson. It is not difficult to get into that business-class lounge. It’s getting out of it while healthy that is more the challenge.
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