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now what?

03/24/2022 08:33:06 AM

Mar24

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

We so desperately want to return to normal, but frankly, we don’t know what normal should look like? Might any of our regular habits be permanently changed, such as dining out, gathering with people, greeting people warmly, going to events with a large number of people, and attending religious services in-person? Most of us have more questions than we have answers. Tree of Life resumed in-person Sabbath services on July 3, 2021, and soon thereafter became mask-optional. The rise of the Delta Variant of COVID demanded that we return to masks, and that drove some people back home. Delta remained, but then was followed by the Omicron Variant, which fortunately for those who were fully inoculated, was mild. Now a new Variant is slowly making its way through Israel, and no doubt will infect our shores. How will it impact those who are inoculated? How will it impact those who are not inoculated? As we slowly become mask-optional and can gather more regularly outdoor, will this new variant change our precautions? And ultimately, the biggest question that no one can answer: Will COVID be a permanent presence in our lives, with boosters necessary to maintain our body’s optimal immune response?

As we ponder these questions and await informed guidance, I do believe that there are three things that we must give pause to as we carefully begin to unmask and enjoy activities that we have not engaged in for quite some time:

Remembrance. We must give pause to remember those who have died either directly from COVID, or from underlying conditions that could not also combat COVID. We slowly edge towards one million deaths alone in the United States, an unthinkable number that from my perspective was unnecessary and avoidable. More than six million have died worldwide. They were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, spouses and significant others, children and friends. They were frontline workers who had to be there to provide for our needs, be it health professionals, teachers, bus drivers and supermarket workers. Before we bravely step forward, we must acknowledge the terrible toll that all of us have suffered, mourn our losses, and pray that those who died repose in peace, and those who mourn the losses find comfort from God.

Healing. There are many who currently do have COVID, and we wish them a full and speedy healing. There are so very many suffering from long COVID even though the infection is no longer present. The symptoms can be complex, compelling many to retire early, resign from their employment, go out on disability, as well as continue to go through batteries of tests as doctors are still trying to figure out why some people get long COVID and how to best treat them. There are so many people traumatized by the pandemic, unable to return to work or re-engage safely with society. Mental health professionals continue to have waiting lists for patients as the stress levels of so many people are beyond expectations. We need to show love, care and compassion for those who suffer physically and emotionally, and pray that they can get the best care possible to return speedily to full health of body and spirit.

Hope. This is the most elusive of desires. You cannot touch it or feel it. It can be fleeting at times, and at other times totally lacking. We have forgotten that the rapidity in which several inoculations appeared is indeed miraculous, and gave us hope that we could move forward. Alas, far too many are not comfortable availing themselves of this life-saving measure, thus keeping the numbers below what many would deem an effective number to create herd immunity. Add to this mix an unjust war in Ukraine, and we can find ourselves wondering where we can find hope. I continue to this day to turn to God as my source of hope and inspiration, and recite every morning since 10.27 Psalm 121. It provides me with hope, and I hope that it will you as well:

                                I life my eyes to the heavens; where shall my help come?

                                My help comes from God, Maker of the heavens and the earth.

Remembrance, healing and hope: three critical steps that each of us must take to move forward, to create our “new normal”. You don’t have to do this alone. Worship services provide a community and framework to pray together, to lift our voices to God, our source of hope and inspiration. May God answer our prayers speedily.

Sun, May 22 2022 21 Iyyar 5782