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 When I returned to my home in Jerusalem from a three-month long sojourn with my children in the United States, I observed a self-imposed quarantine of fourteen days in my home.  I discovered that isolation from personal contact with other human beings is truly a form of mental and physical distress. I fully understand now why house arrest, let alone solitary confinement, are viewed by criminal law as being forms of punishment. I could still talk on the telephone, and I conducted regular Zoom classes online, but the absence of personal face to face contact with other human beings proved to be quite stressful. People, by their very nature, are social creatures, and being alone and isolated from others is an unnatural experience that runs counter to human nature. Our natural soul cries out for companionship and societal contact.  

Judaism does not approve of monk-like behavior, and often views loners as dangerous to society as well as to themselves. There are too many warped memories and ill-conceived fantasies that are present within one who is isolated and alone.  And these are certainly byproducts of enforced isolation from social contact with other human beings.  The strain on family life is even greater than with individuals who live alone. Isolation leads to stress and stress always leads to family dysfunction in one way or another. One of the many sad byproducts of the Corona pandemic lockdown will be the shattering of previously tenuous family relationships. Without normal social relationships, there is a buildup of frustration that now must be acted out in the home and within family. Emerging from isolation carries with it the necessity of flexibility. 
No matter how much we would wish it not to be so, society today is far different than the one that existed a half year ago. Because of the attrition of time and sometimes due to the virulence of the virus itself, there are friends and acquaintances of mine that are no longer here.  In various ways, I had always relied upon their being there for me, and because of their absence, I am faced with a new and different society that I used to interact with. The Talmud relates to us the story of Choni Hamaagel who was asleep for seventy years before he miraculously awoke.  When he awoke he found himself in a new, unfamiliar, and strange world. He had no one with whom he could interact and even sensibly converse. Despairing of his situation, he cried out to Heaven “Either grant me society or end my life.” And, thus, he passed away. 
His may very well be an extreme reaction to the new situation, but it certainly illustrates the poignancy of such a circumstance. It also reinforces within us the necessary human interaction with other human beings.  
Shabbat Shalom 
Berel Wein

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