The past week, with its radiant sunshine and warmer weather, has been the most welcome respite from the constant, necessary vigilance demanded by Covid protocol. And with more New Yorkers being vaccinated each day, our city’s streets are fuller with people of all ages, stretching their weary bones from a year of quarantine. An unthinkable sadness from the loss of life New York experienced, still present in the hearts and minds of us all, now shares the stage with the oncoming spring season and its banner expressions of regeneration and hope.
It’s as appropriate a moment as any to express gratitude for having made it this far. We have made the journey through the dark, narrow passages of this global pandemic; we have begun to conquer the indiscriminate scourge of this cruel pharaoh; and we can imagine, as we do at our Passover seders to contemplate “next year in Jerusalem,” which for most will not mean the actual Jerusalem but an abode of peace, wholeness, and togetherness with those we cherish and love.
I think we can all agree we made it until now by our shared purpose. We wear our masks and apply hand sanitizer, not only to protect ourselves but to protect our neighbors. We maintain distance not to be “anti-social” but rather to ensure the safety and sanctity of others’ lives as well as our own. And despite the annoyances and inconveniences of quarantine, we isolate in order to ultimately rejoin others in an affirmation of the reality that the human is, perhaps, the most social of all creatures on the planet.
We are winning because of sound science and we are winning because of competent leadership. But mostly we are winning because the vast majority are bringing to the shared effort of constructing a sanctuary of hope and good health — the best of our intentions as neighbors and global citizens. Our shared vigilance. As my 18-year-old daughter Minna said this past week when she received her second vaccine (she works in the food industry), “Humans can be pretty amazing.”
In this week’s Torah portion, VaYakhel/Pekudei, the Jewish people are given very specific instructions for the building of the Tabernacle which will hold, guard and protect the Tablets God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. The intricacies of production; the accumulation of material; the ordering and distribution of creating a communal vessel for the conveyance of the Divine word; could only be achieved through shared effort and cooperation.
“And they came everyone whose heart so moved them, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and brought the Eternal’s offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting” (Exodus 35:21).
These words shine with metaphor. Our ancestors knew instinctively what needed to be done to ensure the Divine presence in their midst; and we, as human beings, knew what needed to be done in order to save and preserve life, not just for our own sake or only the sake of our families but for all those with whom we have the privilege of sharing life on this fragile and precious earth.
Shabbat, which comes each week to remind us that life is a gift; that work is a requirement to make it through but so is rest demanded of us, the taking of a breath and expressions of gratitude for having made it this far, only to start the journey again.
May your Shabbat be filled with thanksgiving and hope, blessing and peace, continued vigilance and good health, and a shared commitment to live our lives to the best expressions not only of the ways “our hearts so move us” but also according to the best of what we have been given by those we have loved and may have lost. Their memories will be an eternal source of inspiration, moving us to “pay it forward” so that others after us may know the fruits of shared endeavors in love and hope.