Last year in March, our lives were turned upside down when the COVID-19 virus began its destructive path — and we started taking precautionary measures in an attempt to protect ourselves and to halt the spread of the virus.
A year later, now that most of us are vaccinated and we are beginning to transition back to our former lives, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on some of the things I’ve missed during the past year… and also make a case for perhaps keeping some of the things we have been forced to implement during this difficult period.
I’ve certainly missed seeing many of my friends at shul on Shabbos, and schmoozing at kiddush after minyan. We all lead busy lives … and Shabbos is the time where we can reconnect with our local friends at shul. Unfortunately, many of these people have not been in shul this past year.
Also, I’ve very much missed inviting guests for lunch on Shabbos. Before the pandemic, we regularly hosted guests to sleep over for Shabbos, and often invited many local friends for Shabbos meals. Although we have had family members for Shabbos on occasion, our Shabbos meals have been strangely quiet the last 14 months.
I miss my weekly Rambam class, given by an exceptionally talented teacher at the Young Israel of Stamford. When the pandemic began, our teacher decided to take a break — and not compete with the many other shiurim that shifted to Zoom. (I’m hoping the in-person class will return soon.)
I have missed celebrating simchas with friends. Tuning in to a live stream wedding via Zoom is okay, and has certainly been a blessing for those who could not invite more than a handful of family members to their simchas. However, watching a live stream is not quite the same as being at a simcha in person and sharing your good feelings with those who are close to you. And nobody has yet figured out a way to use Zoom to serve a smorgasbord!
I miss dining out with my wife at our local kosher restaurants. Once the pandemic began, we still placed a takeout order each week — but I’ve missed the enjoyment of going out and actually dining at the restaurant itself.
I missed our annual summer vacation at the beach last year. Each year my wife selects a different beach to visit for a week’s respite — and last year was the first year in a long time that we broke with our tradition. We haven’t decided what we will be doing this summer.
Finally, I missed the human contact with others — the yasher koach handshake at shul … the pat on the back or the hug after seeing someone you have not seen in a while … the conversations with your friends without wearing a mask.
At the same time, there are at least a few things that we were forced to implement because of the pandemic, or that occurred naturally as a result of our actions, which are worth evaluating as long-term options.
Social distancing requirements meant that the seating in our shuls and other institutions had to be more spread out. Putting the question of germs, infections, and other viruses aside, I actually like sitting a bit farther away from others in shul. I find my concentration level is better, and there is less talking during davening. Assuming there is enough room, I wouldn’t mind at all if shuls would continue to space chairs two to three feet apart, and in the case of permanent pews, encourage congregants to leave at least one space between each other when taking a seat.
We’ve all been Zoomed out, at this point, and crave the opportunity for more in-person meetings. However, Zoom is the perfect application for those evening committee meetings — especially during those cold winter nights when you simply don’t feel like going out. I hope that we will continue to use this program for shul meetings and other similar situations where we need to connect with each other.
Once we returned to shul last summer — after the hiatus in the spring — our rabbis cut back on the length of their sermons and chazzanim finished services more quickly, in order to shorten the time congregants were together for services. That wouldn’t be a bad practice to continue, even after the medical requirement for shorter exposure to others is gone.
I’ve always purchased many items online, but in the past year, virtually every purchase I’ve made (except for groceries and an occasional Costco run) has been online. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how efficient and easy online shopping can be. I certainly plan to continue shopping as much as I can online. And for that occasional trip to a retail store, I do like the idea of curbside pickup – even if it’s not for health reasons. Perhaps stores can continue that option.
I had a couple of telemedicine appointments with doctors this past year at the height of the pandemic. I didn’t feel that I sacrificed anything by seeing a doctor on screen. While I won’t say I preferred the telemedicine option to an office visit, I have no problem using it as a viable substitute in the future, especially if it means getting an earlier appointment or avoiding a long car trip to see a doctor in person.
And speaking of cars, I wouldn’t mind if my gas bills continued to remain the way they have been during the past 14 months, and that my EZ pass account continued to be replenished every two months as it is now rather than every two weeks as it was before the pandemic. I doubt that the lower transportation costs will continue, as we are beginning to travel more — but it would be nice if it did.
And finally, I hope I can continue to use Zoom for remote shiurim. I’ve been blessed to be able to log in to a weekly Tanach class from Maryland, but through the magic of Zoom is beamed to me in real-time every Monday night. And I’ve accessed several other special events from locations as far away as Canada and Israel that before the pandemic would have only been held in person, but which are now live-streamed for all to access.
What things did you miss this past year? And what things would you like to maintain?