We’re winding down into the darkest part of the year now. Until December 21, more than two weeks from now, more and more of the day will be sunless; after the winter solstice, light will just creep back. It’s a slow process.
But somehow, just flittingly, maybe, but unmistakably, there are the tiny flickers of hope. And also of danger.
Chanukah’s going to start next week. We’re going to more light each night; the winter solstice will come two days after it ends.
Vaccines are coming. Three of them!
A new administration is coming. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be inaugurated on January 20. This terrible time we’re living through, as the foundations of the republic are rocked with false accusations of fraud, will end then.
By then, the first vaccines will have been given; the first people to have gotten them already will have had their second shot and protected against covid.
Now is not the time to let up our vigilance.
Covid is more easily transmitted inside than outside, and it is far easier for us to be inside than outside in the winter, which, despite the freakishly warm November we’ve just finished, really is coming.
Covid doesn’t care if we’re tired of hiding from it. It’s a virus. It doesn’t get tired. It’s not playing with us. It’s not taunting us. It doesn’t have feelings. It just does what it does, and we can die of it.
(It reminds me of an old novelty song called Fishheads, which includes these deathless words:
“Ask a fish head anything you want to/They won’t answer, they can’t talk
I took a fish head out to see a movie/Didn’t have to pay to get it in
They can’t play baseball, they don’t wear sweaters/
They’re not good dancers, they don’t play drums.”
The virus has the same lack of agency.)
I have been reading laments by non-Jews about how Thanksgiving was so hard because it had to be spent without the extended family, and how Christmas will be even worse. Those are family times, people write. Of course I understand — but I keep thinking about our family and community times — even outside of shul, because that’s not what we’re talking about here — the Pesach sedarim, tikkun leil Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah meals, Yom Kippur breakfast, the shared meals and spaces of Sukkot (which some restaurant sidewalk tents unnervingly resemble), the wild end-of-the season dancing of Simchat Torah. We’ve missed all of it. Now Chanukah, of course; after that, the cycle will start again with Purim, when covid first hit the community, and the rigors of the pandemic began.
We might have to be inside again on Purim, and maybe, possibly, even on Pesach, but with luck it will be over by summer.
Because Jewish life is so cyclical, we have been able to? — have had to? I don’t know if this is or is not a good thing — mark the year as it goes by. Let’s hope that as this one edges first into increasing darkness and then into the light, which increases just as the Chanukah candles do, night by night, it’s followed by a safe, sane, healthy year.
And until then, please be careful. Don’t go to big gatherings, don’t get physically close to anyone outside your household, and please please please wear your mask!—