It has been almost one year since the Pandemic began.
One year later.
So much has happened in one year. Many have tragically passed away and countless others are still sick. Many have lost their jobs or have been negatively impacted financially. There has been heightened emotional stress from all the restrictions, social distancing and masking. For many, the fear of even stepping outside is very real. Schools, as well, have been on a roller coaster of closures and blended learning which has left in its wake frustrated teachers, students and parents.
Yet, the first few months of the Pandemic also created a surge of prayer, acts of kindness and charity. There was an outpouring of care and support for everyone because everyone was impacted. We all spent Pesach with our nuclear families at best, while many ran their seders solo. The feeling of unity was palpable as we reached out to each other with emotional, physical, spiritual and financial assistance.
One year later.
Where are we one year later?
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (the Rav) in an essay in ‘Vision and Leadership,’ discusses the concept of mar’eh ha’gadol — a great sight. The Rav references Moshe turning towards the burning bush. It was a great sight, as the bush was not consumed by the fire at its center. He posits, however, that even the vision of such a miraculous bush is not necessarily a significant or great event.
The Rav cites the Talmud’s discussion in Shabbos 21b about the miracle of Chanukah. Of note, the Talmud mentions that the establishment of the holiday was delayed until a full year following the miracle. Why was the holiday delayed? Rabbi Soloveitchik suggests that the delay reflected the notion that in order for something to be considered noteworthy it must achieve lasting impact. Following the events of Chanukah, the Rabbis waited a year to see if the Jewish people had indeed been transformed through their experience of the events of Chanukah. Had they learned to live more meaningful lives? Were they now more connected and committed to G-d and His Torah? Had the threat to their spiritual future taught the people to reprioritize and find spiritual purpose in their existence?
The delayed establishment of Chanukah suggests that one year later a transformation had occurred. The miracle was the catalyst for the Jews to take stock of their lives. It helped them find greater meaning, purpose and a broader perspective on life. Only then, one year later, when this all became clear, was the holiday of Chanukah established.
What made the burning bush a mar’eh hagadol, a great event?
Rabbi Solovetchik suggests that it was the turning point that pushed the redemptive process to the forefront. Moshe now understood that G-d had heard the cries of the people and was ready to fulfill His ancient promise to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. After much reluctance and self-doubt, Moshe, following G-d’s prodding and encouragement, acquiesced and accepted G-d’s call.
The miraculous burning bush became a “great event” in retrospect due to Moshe’s eventual acceptance of G-d’s charge and mission.
We have certainly been on a whirlwind this year. There have been many ups and downs. There have been many painful and frightening negatives, but also many positives, as well.
Perhaps one year later, G-d is waiting to see what changes we have made. Have all of the prayers, acts of kindness and charity of the past year, made us better individually, as a community and as a people? Has the experience of the pandemic caused us to search our souls and reprioritize what is important in our lives?
Although regretfully the Pandemic is not yet over, this one-year anniversary beckons us to reflect back.
Where are we one year later?
Have we changed for the better?
Now is the time for each one of us to take stock and make commitments moving forward.
Be the one to stand up and say, I am reprioritizing. I am strengthening my commitment to G-d and His Commandments. I am caring about the health, well-being and safety of my fellow human beings. I am actively working to grow as a Jew and as a more concerned and active member of our Jewish community. I will not let this pandemic go by without it having impacted my life for the better.
And maybe, just maybe, we can look ahead to the coming year with re-energized confidence and convictions.