When we gathered over zoom in 5780/ 2020 with our families and communities, most people thought that it was an anomaloy; that by the next year Passover could be "normal" once again. While we are grateful for vaccines, it is clear that there is no "normal" to return to. Things remain altered; we are changed.
The pandemic reminds me of the Exodus narrative itself. The telling of the story at our seder usually ends as the Israelites cross the sea and begin wandering in the desert. To me, however, the wandering is everything. While the early taste of freedom is met with sweetness and song, the feeling didn't last. Some Israelites long to return to Egypt because even to live enslaved seems preferable sometimes than to live with uncertainty. The people often forget to be grateful for their freedom and kvetch (complain) about their conditions and situation. Moses, their leader, quickly learns he needs help to lead. He builds a team and with that team the people figure out how to be a people. It can't happen overnight. It takes many many years of wandering.
Here we are together -- online. We are not newly in this landscape, we have been wandering in it for a while. Like all who wander, we are not sure exactly where we're going or how we will get there. We feel uncertain. Like the Israelites, we may long to "go back" to how things used to be, even though, when we really think about it, things weren't all that great for many of us. It is hard to live with uncertainty. It can be hard to remember to stay grateful for the things that can bring us together -- digital technologies, creative programming, and more. Leaders are emerging during this time but the best among them are realizing that to lead is to make sure no one is left behind. We need a team. We need each other.
This new desert, this wandering, is our opportunity to come together as Jews and as thriving, vibrant, beautiful communities. I, for one, do not wish to "go back." Of course I am glad for a return to some pre-pandemic realities like being able to gather, to hug, to do some of the activities I miss. But there is no "going back," there is only forging ahead. Out of this desert wandering I long for a brighter future in which no one is left behind. I long for a future built on meaningful commitments to diversity and equity. I long for a future in which we work for a future by resolving to protect our planet. I long for a future in which our Jewish communities grow stronger by becoming more inclusive and celebratory of the ways in which our differences make us better, rather than letting difference divide us. Finally, I wish for us that however we make our way through this desert, we rememeber that we need each other and we act accordingly long into the future.
This has been a hard time but I remain hopeful and grateful. May we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy and may we resolve to keep fighting for greater freedom for all.
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