Friday, April 19, 2024 -
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How COVID has changed our Jewish outlook

The Jewish High Holidays and Sukkot have come and gone this year, unlike any other, and posed new challenges for all of us because of COVID. Yet, COVID also offered new opportunities.

So, on the spiritual report card of life, how did we do?

In years past, we took for granted that we could celebrate holidays together — with family, friends and members of our community — at services, meals and communal gatherings. We schlepped kugels, briskets and honey cakes across town and happily anticipated the joy of dining together under the night sky in our sukkahs.

Not so easy this year as we painfully accepted the reality of COVID and the varied, dramatic changes it has required of us in how we live, work, socialize and pray.

Still, we still created ways to come together as a Jewish community and nourish our spiritual health at a time when gathering together was limited or prohibited in order to protect our physical health.

Online services were abundant, with many of us experiencing the delight and inspiration of “attending” congregations in other cities, even countries.

In my own home, I created a special feeling by designing my own Mikdash Me’at, a sanctuary at home. I placed a white lace tablecloth, flowers, candlesticks and my siddur on my dining room table and tuned in to an early morning service in New York, followed by one in Tucson, with the afternoon bringing me to Los Angeles and in the evening with my family.

In a spiritual context, COVID provides an opportunity to enhance our holiday experience rather than limit it. True, this requires us to have a major attitude shift, but historically Jews have adapted to the challenges imposed by history, governments and hostile communities.

So perhaps we can see this new year of 5781 as a time when we accept that while we can’t go outward, we can go inward. Into our hearts, minds and souls — to truly reflect on what is important to us and find ways to better ourselves and others.

Perhaps this is the year that we commit ourselves, from the privacy of our living rooms as we encounter the world on our computers, to make it a safer, healthier and more equitable place to live.

Maybe this will be the year that we use the time and energy that we will save by not doing all of the things we have done in the past to consciously and intentionally look for new ways to contribute our resources, counsel and support to those people and organizations that so desperately need our help.

While we may not be physically together as we were in the past, we can still do something that will bring us closer to who we want to be, as human beings and as Jews, and guide us on how to engage as members of the Jewish community in the future.

Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Columnist | Reflections

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