This Pesach, I want to give thanks and blessing as COVID-19 is finally passing over us. We are over the hump of the second wave, vaccines are rolling out years ahead of schedule and I believe as rapidly as humanly possible, spring is around the corner, and the beginning of getting back to normal now appears within our grasp. This is certainly reason to discuss around the Passover seder how the human spirit, yet again, defies the yoke of oppression – albeit, not unique to Jews this time – from an external threat. It also reminds us, white, Black, Jewish, Muslim, Asian or any other delineation, we are most assuredly all human and ultimately belong to the same family.
One of the blessings I will discuss around the seder table this year is how we in America came together to avoid real catastrophe of this plague. I recognize that not everyone wore a mask every time they should have, and not every business was closed every time it should have, and there were small gatherings when there should not have been. But as Americans we united enough to ensure our worst fears were not realized. In the beginning months of COVID-19’s onslaught, as many as 2 million Americans were estimated to perish in the first year. That did not happen and while every death is mourned, the fact is, we came together and saved well over a million lives. Significantly less than 50 percent of the predicted deaths occurred. We will never know who specifically was spared, but we will celebrate as a family the passing of this plague.
As we celebrate life, my family will also say a prayer for those who died at the hands of COVID-19 and those whose lives were forever changed. While no one in my family died of COVID-19, I did have friends whose parents or grandparents passed. I do, however, have many friends whose lives were significantly and severely impacted. Careers were lost, businesses went bankrupt and retirement savings were completely depleted. Some weeks, food was hard to put on the table. Others lost the roof over their head. And those were not the worst tragedies. It is important to understand and reflect on communitywide effects of this pandemic. Both the rate of domestic violence and murder skyrocketed. Both are an unpleasant commentary on how the human condition can be affected under adversity. The most detrimental aspect of the murder rate statistic is that for the three months of almost universal lockdown (mid-March through mid-June) murder rates plummeted. This means that after the lockdown phase, murder became exceedingly more pervasive than normal to obtain such a high rate per annum. Our community will be working to repair itself for years to come.
As the Passover seder begins to look at the bright side of our ancient trials to discover our path for Jewish self-determination, I, too, will look forward to our future. Specifically, around our table we will rejoice in the return to normal activities. I must admit, both my purse and waistline have appreciated eating home a preponderance of days this past year. But it is not the eating out directly that I crave; it is the comradery that accompanies it. There are so many activities to look forward to: sports, concerts, museums, dance, festivals and just live music at dinner. I am even looking forward to attending charitable dinners; I miss my friends and acquaintances. Most important of activities may be vacations, visiting family and celebrating simchas together. All nourish my soul. For me and my family, there will be no new normal; there will just be normal. I say, this year with family and friends, this year with music and comradery, next year, in Jerusalem.