I have heard it being said many times over the past few months. These are challenging, strange, difficult and unprecedented times.
This is indeed true. No matter how hard or soft the COVID-19 pandemic has hit you, it has had an impact on us all.
As a community rabbi, I have been dealing with it on two fronts. My own personal home front and with my community. Both have brought on their own unique set of circumstances. Both have required being adaptive, patient, innovative, vulnerable and tolerant. Both have required being willing to accept that we cannot be perfect and sometimes just getting through the day is itself an achievement.
I have no doubt every person and household has been navigating these turbulent times in their own way. No two situations are alike and there should be no judgement about how others might be handling the crisis.
What I have found particularly confronting during these times, is seeing how significantly lifecycle events have been disrupted. It has been painful to see families grieving during this time more so than ever. I’ve officiated at a number of funerals over this period and the restrictions have added a huge additional burden in terms of being able to grieve and be comforted. It is never easy to lose a loved one but not being able to have extended family and friends by your side is an enormous tribulation. Zoom and live streaming has been a blessing but it cannot replace crying on the shoulder of a family member or friend.
Seeing numerous couples that were set to stand under Chuppah over this time having to rebook and postpone their magical day. Families of Bar and Bat Mitzvah children pushing off their celebrations. Those blessed with babies not able to share the joys with the grandparents, uncles or aunts. Birthday parties and all the other significant lifecycles and milestone event that have been disturbed. It has not been an easy time.But this time has asked us to rethink things. It has asked us to have a different perspective on life. It has asked us to find new ways to appreciate, love, connect, grieve, celebrate and communicate.
But for me the most important message through all of this has been the importance of gratitude. It has been to ensure we never take things for granted. I know some people have been saying we shouldn’t want to go back to a “normal” from before but there are things that we most certainly do want to experience once again.We have slowly started our daily and Shabbat services at my Shule after being closed for two months or so and I cannot tell you how much joy it brings when my alarm rings at 5:30am to go to Shacharit. Previously I had wanted to throw it against the wall and had hoped the clock had got it wrong. I didn’t value the opportunity as much as I do now. Many congregants have been putting their name on our roster. I think they too see the beauty and gift in being able to pray in a Minyan.
This is just one example.
Each event that has been shaken, each activity that has been stopped, will hopefully now be seen with a different lens when it resumes. I cannot wait to stand with couples under the Chuppah, to celebrate with Bnei Mitzvah, new parents and also to see families having the right support at difficult times. I have no doubt that for me these will be done with a much stronger and greater sense of appreciation.
But sadly in life we do fall into routine quite quickly. I saw a Facebook post which listed all the events of Coronavirus as they unfolded. The end of the post then explained that they want to see this in a years’ time in the Facebook Memories so as not to forget what occurred. I have now placed a small paper in my tefillin bag which states “smile that you can use these now in a Minyan” to help serve as a reminder for me.
Yes, we cannot change what has happened. The additional pain for those mourning, the upset for those wanting to celebrate, is real. But there is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to change ones perspective. To appreciate life, to appreciate the numerous gifts each of us enjoy in our own personal circumstances. The question though is, will we take it? Or will we forget about the tale of the world and corona which turned things upside down and sadly squander this rare opportunity waiting for us right now…