We have learned these last seven months more than just how to wash our hands well. We have acquired a new vision of neighborliness. In Israel, for example, the pandemic has created bridges between Jews and Muslims. Sick Palestinians are getting care from Jewish medical staff that they might otherwise avoid. They are fighting together a common enemy: Covid-19. Israeli hospitals are being seen around the world (the way we have always seen them) as a model for the highest level of care and neighborliness. As the pandemic has worsened, our sense of caring for others has heightened.
What we have learned is that the well-being of our neighbors is a precondition for having a healthy neighborhood. Our calling is to provide resources to the entire neighborhood for the sake of all our neighbors.
And, we are discovering the wisdom that we are more competent than we ever imagined. In the early days of the pandemic, panic set in. We were going to have to do everything without help from anyone. Some of us learned that we can actually cook; others realized that we can create 12 straight activities for our children that don’t involve leaving the house; others, still, learned to cut their own hair.
We have learned so much during these days at home. In addition to that sense of neighborliness and competence, we have made family a priority, we have eaten meals slowly, and we have read some of the pile of books that once seemed insurmountable. The question is – when we are all vaccinated and the coast is clear – will we retain the values that we have embraced during this time or will we go back to our old ways?
The shofar calls out to each of us to take a good look into the mirror of consciousness. What do you see? You are a little older than you were. Are you a little wiser, nobler and kinder too?
So much is so rotten in the world – so much hatred and violence and sickness – it’s easy to throw up your hands and say, “What’s the use? What can I do? “
Being God’s handiwork, we are endowed with the capacity to look ahead and think in terms of possibility in spite of what we know and see around us. We can choose.
We can grow. We can change. Each person is a vessel containing within her or himself the potential for holiness that can transform the world.
How often have we heard the phrase “this is our new normal”? What if we were to embrace it? What if we were to reimagine our best selves in this new normal?
God is present and will see us through this pandemic, but what really happens to this world depends on whether we have the courage and imagination to devise new ways of being human together or whether we go back to the way things used to be.
Rabbi Peter S. Berg is spiritual leader of The Temple.