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Similarities Between COVID-19 and Jewish Mothers-in-Law

June 18, 2020 | by Mark Miller

COVID-19 spreads from person to person. Jewish mothers-in-law go from person to person, sharing their disappointment in their sons-in law.

Okay, first things first. Please know that I am in no way equating your mother-in-law with COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory illness that can spread from person to person and is caused by a novel coronavirus. That would be wrong and rude. So, relax. Hopefully, your mother-in-law is nothing like the Coronavirus.

Still, while doing my Covid-19 research, I couldn’t help noticing certain similarities between the virus and Jewish mothers-in-law in general (not yours). You may, of course, be wondering why I simply don’t keep my findings to myself rather than outing Jewish mothers-in-law and risking offending the virus. Fair question. And to answer it, allow me to quote from the IJCOE, the International Journalist Code of Ethics, Article Seven, Section Nineteen, Paragraph Four: “When discovering similarities between any highly contagious respiratory illness and a relative through marriage, it is mandatory that the journalist publicize his or her findings immediately for the greater good of society.” Thank you for understanding.

Here, then, is a representative selection of the similarities my research has revealed between COVID-19 and Jewish mothers-in-law:

They’re Champions

COVID-19 spreads from person to person. Jewish mothers-in-law go from person to person, sharing their disappointment in their sons- and daughters-in-law, husbands, parents, friends, co-workers, jobs, doctors, pets, aging, rabbis, cantors, neighbors, weather, vacations, lack of vacations, sheltering in place, pollution, crime, rap music, high prices, fruit not being as good as it used to be, Republicans, Democrats, robocalls, too much to watch on TV, not enough good stuff to watch on TV, congestion and insects. If there was a complaining Olympics, Jewish mothers-in-law would be gold medalists. What am I saying? They’re champions!

They’re Gardeners

Just as the Coronavirus has spread throughout the world, Jewish mothers-in-law can be found in virtually every country in the world. Okay, so there aren’t a lot of them in Vatican City or Ghana, but that just makes the few there all the more special. And with the advent of the internet and international travel (when it returns), Jewish mothers-in-laws’ reach can easily remain global. So, think of Jewish mothers-in-law as gardeners. They plant the seeds of their wisdom, knowledge and experience in their children and in-laws, who then spread out all over the world, infused with Essence of Momma, which as we all know, is very hard to wash off!

They’re Intense

When I found out that COVID-19 symptoms can range from mild (or no symptoms) to severe illness, I thought back on all the conversations I’ve had with friends and family members about their Jewish mothers-in-law. Those relationships came in similar levels of intensity. Many of them got on fine with them and even enjoyed being with them and having them in their lives. Others found little quirks or annoyances that irritated them to a limited degree. And still others found their Jewish mothers-in-law so disagreeable and antagonistic that they actually found themselves occasionally praying for the sweet release of death to be free of the relationship. But I stress that those were in the minority. Granted, a troubled minority, but a minority nonetheless.

They Age Like a Fine Wine, or Something

In terms of COVID-19, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more severe illness. This parallels the arc of our relationship to our Jewish mother-in-law. When we’re young and first meet her, everyone is polite, kind, considerate, and on their best behavior. Then, as with many relationships, as we get older and time progresses, those social nicety guards gradually lower, and eventually are done away with, and in their place, honesty, directness, and even tactlessness rear their ugly heads. And before long, our relationship with our Jewish mother-in-law resembles that of any long-term relationship where the people feel so familiar that they don’t mind annoying, insulting, and hurting one another – all, of course, in the name of love and caring.

They’re Cleanliness Visionaries

To prevent Coronavirus, we are asked to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. As you probably know, Jewish mothers-in-law have been doing exactly that for time immemorial, and not just to prevent viruses. It’s actually a part of their religious belief: Cleanliness is next to godliness. Especially after their visiting son-in-law or daughter-in-law leaves their mother-in-law’s house. In the Talmud (Shabbat 114a), Rabbi Yochanan is reported to have said: “Any Torah scholar whose clothes contain a grease stain is liable to death at the hand of Heaven.” And if you don’t keep your place really clean and get rid of those smudge now, you could become lax in countless other areas of your life, and before you know it, you’re a heroin addict in the gutter. If you had only picked up a bottle of Clorox spray and attacked that smudge.

Care is Available

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19, but you can seek medical care to help relieve your symptoms. Similarly, there is no specific treatment for Jewish mothers-in-law, but you can seek psychiatric care to help relieve your symptoms.

Time-Release Slams

With COVID-19, symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Jewish mothers-in-law are notorious for saying and/or doing things that might not sink in right at the time. 2-14 days later, however, you’ll be doing something completely unrelated to your mother-in-law and you’ll suddenly remember a remark she made which cast aspersions on a) your masculinity or femininity, b) your ability to earn a decent living, or c) your appearance/wardrobe/dining habits/hobbies and interests/way you deal with your kids. That remark will kick in and do its damage. Yes, your mother-in-law has planted yet another time-release slam.

Sure-Fire Way to Protect Yourself From JMIL

There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Don’t get ahead of me, now. I know many of you are thinking I’m about to say that the best way to protect yourself from Jewish mothers-in-law is to not be around them. Stay home. Stay safe. But au contraire, my Judaic friends. I’m not buying in to any of these stereotypes because Jewish mothers-in-law are simply people, just like the rest of us, with the same hopes, dreams and fears that we all have. They only want the best for you and we should only want the best for them. God bless them. What, like we ourselves are so perfect? And the fact that my Jewish mother-in-law is looking over my shoulder as I write this has absolutely nothing to do with it! (I’ll call you later.)

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