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Lessons from a pandemic--one year in

The challenge of COVID has taught us all so much

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This month marks the year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago. With Passover coming soon--the first Seder begins on March 27--our holiday will undoubtedly look different again this year.  

On this beloved festival of freedom--where we're told to welcome "all who are hungry to come and eat"-we once again will have to downsize our Seders. For many of us that will mean inviting very few or no people to our Seders, or breaking matzoh with our loved ones over Zoom.  

But one thing that will look different this year is that we're much wiser going into this second Passover season in quarantine than we were in 2020 when this strangeness was brand new to us. The challenge of COVID has taught us all so much. Here are some of the lessons I've learned so far from the pandemic: 

The rhythm of the Jewish year is a beautiful thing. 

The punctuation of the calendar with Jewish holidays--from Passover to Rosh Hashanah and especially our weekly Shabbat celebrations--helped define this past year which would have otherwise felt like an amorphous blob. One frustration for so many of us during the pandemic has been that every day feels like the movie  Groundhog Day . But the Jewish calendar doesn't let that happen. Whether you keep Shabbat to the letter of the law or simply celebrate it with lighting the candles and challah, Shabbat this year (and always) has been a beautiful reminder to take a beat when we needed it most.  

There are heroes amongst us. 

Healthcare workers. Teachers. Delivery workers. And so many more essential service providers. We're blown away by their commitment to caring for the sick, teaching our children, getting our essential packages to us, and more. Twelve months in, we do not take them for granted.  

Being present transcends the physical space. 

In these weird times, we have all found ways of being present for one another, Jews and non-Jews alike, even if that means spiritually and emotionally--but not physically. Think of all the people you have reached out to over the past year to check in on. Every time you do something as simple as texting or calling someone to let them know they're not alone, you're doing a mitzvah. What seems like a small act could make a bigger difference in that person's life than you even know.  

Jews adapt. It's what we do.  

As challenging as it has been, the pandemic has been a chance for the world to pivot in beautiful and creative ways from creating remote learning to drive-by bar and bat mitzvahs to the all-important virtual happy hours. For us Jews, the skill of the pivot is nothing new. Our people's long-tested resiliency of spirit is as ancient as the Jewish people themselves. We've adapted through so much worse, and have transitioned here as needed, too. 

Give yourself a break-perfection isn't possible.  

Yes, we can care for our children, get our work done, put a home cooked meal on the table (some evenings), and keep up with our household chores. But can we do them all perfectly? Heck, no. And while perfection wasn't possible before the pandemic either, what has evolved for many of us is our mindset. What has changed is our permission to give ourselves a break, be kinder to ourselves, and recognize that "good enough" will have to suffice.  

This too shall pass. 

In troubled times, I like to reference this adage--often appearing in Jewish folklore--reflecting the temporary nature of the human condition. As we continue to hear more news about the COVID vaccines' wider availability, so many of us are feeling hopeful that there is a light at the end of this long tunnel of separation.  Like so many other tests in human history, we will triumph over this pandemic, too.  

"For us Jews, the skill of the pivot is nothing new. Our people's long-tested resiliency of spirit is as ancient as the Jewish people themselves."

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