This fall, for people with compromised immune systems or other health issues, extra precautions – social distancing and masking – remain a wise choice. For most people in Canada, the pandemic is over.
While the pandemic will never truly be past for those who lost family members and those whose health has been permanently affected (in ways we may not fully understand for years), this will be the first fear-free High Holidays since 2019 for the vast majority of Jews.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told it might take a couple of weeks’ isolation to overcome the spread. That stretched to three years of various levels of regulation and recommendations, decreasing and increasing again based on numbers of transmissions. Each new cycle of the calendar brought its own adaptations, beginning with outdoor seders and simchas – fine in Tel Aviv and Miami, less so, sometimes, in Winnipeg and Warsaw.
It is perhaps a symptom of both Jewish and human nature that, when one problem is resolved, we focus on another. It has been a dependable habit since the creation of the state of Israel that, when immediate external threats subside, attentions turn to internal disagreements – “Who is a Jew?” is a repeating topic, for example. Of course, one thing need not preclude the other. Israel is currently experiencing both external threats, in terms of a spate of terrorist attacks, and unprecedented political and social divisions.
But let’s not be so quick to find something to worry about. At this time of reflection, we all deserve to take a moment to consider the successes of the recent past. As we gather around holiday tables, we probably do not need to be reminded how fortunate we are to be together. Let us consider extending that sense of gratitude into the rest of our lives.
As young people return to classes, let’s celebrate the incredible resilience of kids who had formative years of their lives disrupted – and their teachers, who responded to exceptional circumstances! And parents, who admirably acted in the breach.
The synagogues and nonprofit organizations that are the backbone of our community transitioned on a dime to deliver programs and services as best they could during the pandemic – in many cases reaching more people virtually than they had in person, and expanding inclusivity and accessibility for all ages and abilities, as well.
Businesses that form the foundation of our economy – locally and globally – encountered supply chain (and plenty of other) constraints that they confronted as best they could.
We should also celebrate the manner in which our community steps up to respond to other urgent issues. Most recently, wildfires in British Columbia, Canada’s north, Hawaii and elsewhere – with Jewish people and organizations helping with accommodations for evacuees, food and other supplies, and more.
We have plenty of reasons to be concerned about the state of the world. There is time for that. During the month of Elul and into the Days of Awe, as we ponder the transcendent, take a few moments to consider and celebrate both the recent challenges overcome and the good fortune you experience in the day-to-day of life.