Religion as A Form of Constancy During the Coronavirus Pandemic – Aitan Maeir

As we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has changed and continues to change modern-day society. Whether these changes are economic, social, political or of another kind, they are clear changes that are extremely visible and life-changing for many demographics. However, as someone who has an affinity for religion and everything that it represents, specifically Judaism, I have come to the understanding that religion has been the only constant for me during this pandemic. Although I might not be able to go to my normal synagogue to pray and rejoice with other members, the Jewish doctrine and philosophy of religion have not changed as a result of the current pandemic. 

Throughout my daily life, I deal with depression, feelings of not being wanted, and a great lack of self-esteem. There are some aspects of my life that depress me but many aspects that I am extremely grateful for—particularly those that offer constancy. I have come to the understanding that constancy (and with it, predictability) are features that aid me in managing my depression and its various connected consequences. The constancy and therefore, the predictability of certain areas of Judaism allow me to continue my religious life without stopping and reexamining despite various changes during the pandemic. I look forward to meals over the Sabbath at home and the Chabad (a center for Jewish life) here on campus; I also look forward to prayers and other cherished facets of Judaism because they ground me and thrill me, and because I know that they happen regardless of whether or not there is a global pandemic. In this sense, the constancy in religion provides me something to look forward to every week, something that I can rely on. 

I have immense gratitude for the constancy and beauty I find in religion. I believe that my gratitude is encapsulated in an utterance that I state every time I say Hallel (a Jewish prayer said on various holidays and festivities that is a compilation of verses from Psalms). The utterance, “Praise the LORD, for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal” or in Hebrew “הוֹד֣וּ לַיהוָ֣ה כִּי־ט֑וֹב כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ” (Psalms 118:1). In my opinion, I believe that God loves everyone and that no matter what event or circumstance, God’s love is constant. In addition to the doctrine and philosophy being constant, so too for me is God’s love. 

The fact that God’s love, doctrine, and philosophy, which manifest themselves in Judaism, are all constant does not negate the hardships that we continue to endure during this pandemic, rather, I believe that it enhances those hardships. Personally, for me, the constancy in religion has allowed me to focus on other areas of my life that have not been as constant lately. Religion has not “taken a back seat” I have faith that the constancy in my religion will guide me through the vicissitudes that the pandemic has to offer. The constancy of religion is a comfort for me that I do not take for granted and I thank God every day that I have Judaism to comfort me in times of distress, despair, and chaos. 

Throughout this interfaith fellowship, I hope to explore how constancy manifests itself in other global religions. In addition, I desire to explore how that constancy helps us become more adept at dealing with the various changes that are thrown our way in life. 

One question that I want to leave you all, the readers, is: How does constancy in your life help you when you are going through a life-altering circumstance? What in your life gives you constancy? 

10 thoughts on “Religion as A Form of Constancy During the Coronavirus Pandemic – Aitan Maeir”

  1. Aitan,

    I can relate to the feeling of religion being the only comfort in times of chaos as it was during the hardest times that I too relied on the constancy of religion to ground me while my problems whirled around me.
    Constancy helps me know what to expect and therefore have a better idea of how to approach the situations in my life, no matter how hard or life-altering. In my life, the love I feel for and from the higher being that guards my soul provides me the comfort to know that no matter where I am in life, there will always be someone that cares for me and it is that constancy that always gives me hope of a better tomorrow in the hardest of times.

  2. I really like the things you said about Shabbat providing stability and structure to your life, Aitan. I’ve had a similar experience with Shabbat being the glue that holds my life together when it feels like everything else is falling apart. I started college late because I had been living in Jerusalem after high school, trying to possibly move there, and when it didn’t work out I felt really untethered and like I didn’t really have roots anywhere. After coming back to the US, during my first few months in Madison I didn’t really know anyone and I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. During those months, Shabbat services at Hillel were the one thing I forced myself to go to every week, no matter how down or drained I was feeling. I ended up meeting all my best friends (who I live with now) through meals after those Shabbat services. In general, I think it’s super cool how Shabbat can be so powerful in different peoples’ lives in different ways.

    In terms of the pandemic, while religion has provided me with at least some consistency to fall back on, I’ve also had kind of a hard time navigating my faith during quarantine. For me one of the most important things about Judaism is the way it brings people together in a physical community. You don’t get the same sort of electric, spiritual feeling praying over zoom. Sometimes I think I let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and I just skip any sort of religious events for a few weeks at time because they feel isolating and sometimes make me feel lonelier rather than better in their modified pandemic form. I think that’s something I need to keep working on though, because like you said, religion can provide your life with so much stability if you just let it.

  3. Hello, Aitan! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post and particularly loved when you said that your religion “thrilled” you. That is such a rewarding feeling to have. It was also quite comforting to know that you (and certainly many others) are able to find constancy through faith in times of chaos, worry, and fear. What you said about God’s love being constant particularly stood out to me, as that can be applied to a number of religions and beliefs as a source of grace and calm. I’ve also been able to find a certain relief in the constancy of praying before bed. This helps me clearly lay out my worries and hope that they will be heard and addressed.

    The idea of constancy also reminded me of a particular characteristic Russian Orthodoxy that one may often see expressed in 19th century Russian literature (such as the works of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky). This is the concept that continuous suffering actually makes one holier, and brings one closer to God. This can be seen in the autobiography of the Archpriest Avvakum, in which he likens his suffering in prison (for being an Old Believer) to that of Jesus. It can also be seen in the redemption of Sonya and Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. Now, personally, I am not sure if I’m aligned with the idea that undergoing suffering makes one inherently holier, as I believe that sets a dangerous precedent for allowing injustice and hurt to continue without intervention. However, I can understand that historically, this idea offered relief to numerous believers in Russia who, due to various circumstances of life, did experience constant suffering. To them, in a darker yet also profound way, religion was a constant.

  4. Hi Aitan,

    I have also searched for a sense of constancy as the pandemic unfolds, but I do not find it in my religion (Catholicism). It was a source of constancy when I was younger and attended services regularly, but as I grow older, my schedule and peace of mind come more from the literature I read than my religion. I find that re-reading books and re-watching movies gives me a sense of constancy. No matter how much the world changes and how much I change, the texts remain the same. I might interpret them differently as I grow, but they are constant. I do question sometimes whether my switch from a reliance on art over my religion has come at a cost of community, which is one reason that the interfaith fellowship was of such interest to me. In any case, I empathized with your piece and thank you for sharing such a personal strategy for navigating these odd times.

  5. Aitan, I loved reading about your perspective and how religion can bring you a sense of peace and constancy during tumultuous times such as these. I too find myself leaning into my faith during this time. I can relate to the feeling that in the midst of the chaos, my faith tells me God is still the same. However, I sometimes also feel alone during such trying and difficult times. Seeing the suffering around us during this past year can sometimes cause me to feel like we live in a Godless world, for what kind of God would allow such things? I try to quiet these doubts that I have, but they have been more present for me this year. Yet, I find myself wanting to cling to faith as well in the midst of so much change and uncertainty.

    Constancy for me has come mainly from my family since I have been forced to spend more time with them this past year than ever before. I have always been close with my family, but this past year has brought us even closer. Sharing meals and discussing our shared faith helps ground me and provide a small sense of normalcy and constancy.

  6. Hello Aitan! As you mentioned, coronavirus has changed so much of our lives. Constancy has been swept out from under us. I am a transfer student and three years into college I’m still not sure how much I enjoy school. When transferring from school to school, dorm to dorm to home to apartment or when figuring out how to navigate coronavirus I find that the people in my life who i love and care about give me the greatest sense of constancy. I moved home when coronavirus hit because I was in a dorm and had to move, when I came home everything felt oddly familiar but different. The routines I was used to with my family had changed quite a bit. No longer could we go to mass on Sunday and family dinners out weren’t on the table. But, being around my family again, being in the same city as my boyfriend(who goes to school an hour away), and my best friend from childhood(who goes to school in Indiana), gave me the constancy to be at peace.

  7. Aitan,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. I, too, have been turning to my faith for feelings of normalcy and constancy throughout the pandemic, but I hadn’t considered this perspective. Very early on into the pandemic, life became very surreal and time almost seemed to stand still. With no friends, no schedules, no routine, it became easy to just go through the motions and wait for each day to pass. In the same light, it became harder and harder to be productive and proactive, with no end of the pandemic in site. I started to think about how, for better or worse, I felt my connection to God strengthen in times of struggle and growth, and how all of these aspects of my life felt absent. I’m glad that I noticed this, because I then made a conscious decision to use my time in quarantine to work on my relationship with God. In doing so, I think I changed the way I think about my relationship with God. Rather than only turning to God in times of struggle, it now feels more comfortable to turn to faith in a normal day when I’m alone with my thoughts. In the following months of the pandemic, I was able to turn my faith into a very personal and constant experience, and I hope that continues in the months to come.

  8. Hi Aitan! I really enjoyed how you articulated what your faith has been able to give you in during this time. As someone who has greatly distanced themself from religion, it can be easy to forget all the positives that come out of practicing it. While reading this, I was reminded of an old feeling: envy. Not too long ago I was very envious of those in my life who managed to continue (or start) their journies in faith because I tried (like really tried) to have a relationship with a higher power but it never quite worked out. For the most part, I’ve escaped this emotion having come to terms with my outlook on the world but you know the green monster can occasionally rear its ugly head, especially after reading such a beautiful testament to one’s religion. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  9. Hi Aitan! Your blog post was extremely interesting to read – I can literally feel your enthusiasm and love for your religion! I personally really resonated with the idea of constancy of religion in your life. This pandemic has been very frustrating as I often felt as though I was being pushed back. At certain times, various aspects of my life were changing so rapidly and unpredictably that I felt I could not keep up. As I watched my life change before me, I also watched the lives of many other people change. For example, the news was filled with statistics about infection rate and deaths from Covid-19. I wondered how God could be so cruel – at times like this, I sometimes wonder if there is truly a God watching the events of the world. How could so many people have their loved ones taken away? Despite these thoughts, I relied on my faith to get me through the early stages of the pandemic and summer. I did not realize how much I needed my faith until certain verses and prayers seemed to provide most comfort. As you mentioned, hard times are hard but made easier with the support religion provides. I was so happy to read that prayers in your religion of Judaism thrill you – I have not often heard prayers and the word “thrill” used in the same sentence! When I visit the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple), I find myself excited to listen to Kirtan (prayers that are sung outloud with typically a harmonium and tabla (drums)). Looking forward to visiting the Gurdwara on religious holiday’s always provided me some relief from the daily stresses of life, and it is hard not to have those events to look forward to. I had never thought about the constancy of religion and am also eager to see if other fellows feel similarily about religions they may practice. I look forward to discussing this topic with you Aitan!

  10. Aitan, I really enjoyed your thoughts! I think religion has so much power to do good and I agree with you that God’s love is a wonderful constant in our lives. I love how the constants in our lives can serve as a familiar check-in when it seems like everything else may be changing. One thing that really helps me is to read daily from sacred writings, in my case the Book of Mormon and the Bible. This daily reading helps me to refocus on what is really important and to feel God’s love every day. The words do more than simply teach, they help me connect, and that daily connection has become a vitally important part of my life.

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