23 July 2021
Last Sunday, we observed Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. This fast day commemorates five historic calamities, including the destruction of the first and second Temples. The day is a sad one, but interestingly, it’s also said the Messiah will be born on Tisha B’Av. That belief may be rooted more in metaphor than anything else—the idea that the hope for a Jewish Messiah was born on the day the first Temple was destroyed.
Metaphor or not, Tisha B’Av is a day that mixes tragedy with hope, sadness with optimism. We mourn the past, yet simultaneously dream of a future where evil retreats and peace reigns. I’ve been thinking about this concept as it relates to the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to become experts at this kind of tension—of holding contradictory feelings and beliefs at once.
We’re in an uncomfortable new phase of this collective journey—rife with opposing realities. How different this week feels compared to just a few weeks or a couple of months ago when many of us were getting vaccinated. The news earlier in the week about England ending most of its COVID-19 restrictions the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson went into quarantine exemplifies our co-existing realities: infections are down in much of the world, yet the virus continues to rage in several locations.
Many of us have been vaccinated and are resuming some version of our previous lives, but now we’re hearing about cases of vaccinated people getting COVID-19. Some people who stowed away their masks are now rethinking wearing them again in certain situations.
It’s challenging to live and to plan in a state of constant change with so many unknowns. As we continue to navigate how to live in the ambiguity, I’ve repeatedly returned to the idea that the pandemic laid bare for many of us how critically important human connection and community are. Many people have celebrated the opportunity to get together with others over the past few months, only to feel uncertain again with the news each week. With so much continuing to shift and move under our feet, we wonder: do we reach out and connect or do we pull back?
I strongly feel that now more than ever, we need to be there for each other. We must also recognize that each person has distinct needs and that they experience and respond to uncertainty differently. For some, gathering for the High Holidays will be an important physical transition back into the community. For others who are uncomfortable reuniting in person, this period may remind them of their concerns and isolation.
There is no single solution, but our community can continue to support and care for one another as we welcome a new year. I have been awed as I witness how the Jewish community and local organizations continue to support people across the full range of needs, whether by simply creating opportunities to get together and physically be with each other, or by providing critical services for individuals and families. I’ve written before about 703-J-CARING: the Jewish Community Support Line, and believe it is one of the ways we can do just that. This partnership among Federation, JSSA, and our network of human service agencies serves as a one-stop resource, with trained professionals ready to connect people with support and services from across the community. Please continue to share this information and encourage people to access services when needed.
I have been so proud of our community for how we’ve come together to be there for one another—both individually and collectively. These are unsettling times, and no one should feel the need to weather them alone.