Dear Rabbi Fried,
We’ve been hearing a lot about “revenge tourism” since the opening of the lockdowns due to COVID-19, and I wanted to see what you think about this from a Jewish perspective as a way to mark the new post-COVID-19 period.
According to The Economist World Ahead Magazine for 2023, economists call this phenomenon “pent-up demand.” But people who were stuck at home during the pandemic have another name for the rebound in travel that will continue in 2023: “revenge tourism,” as “travelers show the pandemic who’s boss.”
This approach is the antithesis of the Jewish approach to the pandemic.
The leading Torah sage of the generation during the pandemic was Rabbi Chaim Kinyevsky ob”m of Israel. He wrote that one of the key lessons to be learned from the pandemic was the contrary, to recognize Who is truly the Boss. We saw that the Al-mighty, for reasons beyond our comprehension, could send the tiniest, nearly imperceivable virus and completely shut down the world.
This is a lesson of tremendous humility. The lesson is that we are not the boss!
Many have lamented that the lessons to be learned from the pandemic, even when they were first noticed, were short-lived. Our memories are very short and we very quickly, as zealously as we can, went back to our routines.
Although it’s natural to want to return to our routines and normalcy, to go back to business as usual and forget the lessons learned renders the experience we had meaningless. But if we go back to our routines as different people in some way, more elevated, more appreciative of life, with an enhanced appreciation and cognizance of G-d’s mastery over the world, it was worth it.
To be involved in revenge tourism and “show the pandemic who’s boss” isn’t just forgetting the lessons of COVID-19, it’s shirking them completely.
Let us not forget we are fortunate we are alive and able to live normal lives again, and to Whom we need to express thanks and appreciation.
Let’s live with humility, appreciation and love of our families, friends and neighbors whom we are so fortunate to have. And when we travel, let it be with that same appreciation and not with a vengeance.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.