The Blessing of Uncertainty



1. The state of being uncertain
2. Something that is uncertain or causes one to feel uncertain

Uncertainty is part of life and it most certainly sums up the last five months of life in this world. Covid-19 barreled into our lives, turning almost everything upside down and inside out. Many people were ill and too many passed away. Some people are still recuperating from weeks of being ventilated. No one envisioned a world in which people work from home, Zoom learning at all ages prevails, and shuls would be closed. Simchas have been significantly curtailed: many don’t know the venue until a few days prior to the big day. Who would have ever thought that the only consistently functioning Minyan in the world saying Kaddish and naming babies for over two months would be comprised of octogenarians and septuagenarians living in Sandringham Gardens in far-away Johannesburg, South Africa?

Here we are more than midway through July and there is some semblance of normalcy as we once knew it. Many shuls and camps are open this summer. Many people have returned to shopping in stores (albeit unfortunately, without too many masks in sight).

It appears as though our children will be able to be in Israel for Elul Zman and the next academic year. The historic news that approximately 180 religious institutions spanning the spectrum of Judaism have pulled together so over 12,000 young Jewish men and women can attend yeshivas, seminaries and others programs is cause for joy. Yet the resurgence of Covid-19 in Israel has led to reinstituting many restrictions in order to contain its spread.

Uncertainty prevails.

We usher in the month of Av this week, which means that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur follow in about 60 days. Simultaneously, we are witnessing Covid-19 spikes and numbers that were heretofore impossible to contemplate. Shuls are packed during the Yamim Noraiim: will we be in shul as we know it for this coming Yom Tov season? I, for one, would like to be.

Yet uncertainty prevails.

Schools. We are approximately 6 weeks away from the beginning of the school year, a time of hope and renewal for many people. Many colleges and universities have announced classes on line. I have not figured out how students in medicine, dentistry and allied medical professions will manage with virtual dissections: will their lack of hands-on learning and patient care have an effect on their future competence?

Our elementary, junior high and high schools have formed Reopening Committees comprised of different professionals to effect proper school openings. The problem is that the constant state

of flux of information and misinformation makes it beyond impossible to formulate a stable reopening in which every person’s health is guaranteed.

Uncertainty prevails.

Couple all this with a rapidly changing and evolving geo-political landscape that includes a United States presidential election in November.

Uncertainty prevails. Actually, it’s rampant.

In my own world, the phone rings daily and emails arrive with questions of uncertainty.

· “My parents have antibodies and they are begging us to come for Shabbos with our three small kids. We don’t have antibodies and our kids are in day camp. Can we go? Oh – My 83-year old grandmother wants to come, too.”

· “We are making a Bris. Baruch HaShem, there are two complete sets of grandparents and several great-grandparents. Several live out of state. We’d like to get the family together. We are talking about perhaps 100 people. We prefer indoors during the heat and humidity.”

· “My 18-month old has a cold with a runny nose. My other children’s camps insist that we sign a daily form that the campers have not been exposed to any one sick or who has a cold. What we should we do?”

Uncertainty on steroids.

So how is one to proceed in a world swarming with uncertainty?

Interestingly, uncertainty can be a positive thing. It can motivate us to action and lead to innovations. We can still thrive during these trying times.

As a positive, uncertainty can get a bad name when in reality, it can be a positive thing. Uncertainty can motivate us to action and lead to innovations. We can thrive during these trying times as they push us buttons, causing us to (choose to) develop news “muscles” and skills.

The creative process will evolve into almost all aspects of life. Think of the classroom. The desks we once knew will become part of the time capsule called “Life B.C. – Before Covid.” New desks are emerging. Some schools are installing desks with plastic shield so every child is socially distanced. Perhaps health-compromised teachers can teach remotely, and teachers-in-training or teacher–wannabes can circulate classrooms, making sure children are absorbing and applying what the “seasoned” teacher is teaching.

In medicine the only certain point about Covid-19 is its uncertainty and how little we truly know about it and its trajectory. Hence, medical journals and chats are replete with ongoing discussions that become obsolete within nanoseconds after pressing the “send” button despite the significant time and effort invested which we revisit again and again. I can guarantee with certainty that this process will be ongoing for some time into the future. While this creative

process is invigorating, the uncertainty humbles one to make sure that we are doing the best and right thing for our patients.

Speaking of medicine and innovation – We need more comfortable PPE and masks that don’t tire us out. Can someone please innovate?

As a positive, uncertainty made me appreciate structure and order more than ever before. The day begins with learning and davening, even when there was no Minyan. Family. Work. More learning and davening. Family. Friends. Exercise. Of course, food. Family. Thank G-d Minyan is back.

These are unusual times, time that require thinking outside the box and developing new ways and workflows in almost every area of life. But no matter what happens, it’s important to know and remember that it is all from HaShem. That is the only certainty in life – HaShem is in control.

As always, daven.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.