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  • Shabbat

Almost everyone I speak to these days is feeling the effects of the long and difficult year we have had. Most are suffering from occasional or regular mild depression or worse. Anxiety and frustration abound. Maybe it is because the one year anniversary of the first frightening spread of the virus in our nation is upon us and we cannot believe we still have more to go. Vaccines are elusive, the websites maddening. We know that we, the lucky ones, have somehow survived this year, but we are also beginning to really feel the emotional, physical and material price we have paid. We have hit the Covid wall.

Month after month after month at home. Working at home, eating at home, exercising at home, the kids at home—all the damn time. The line between work and downtime—gone. Eating in our cars when we do go out. Wary of every stranger in the grocery store.  The despicable political and criminal turmoil on January 6th at the Capital and the bickering in congress hasn’t helped. Neither has the overt and shameful racism and anti-Semitism we have witnessed. Many of us are drinking too much or gobbling edibles so that we can sleep.

Sure, there have been some bright spots here and there; some really funny stuff on Instagram and the late night talk shows. Babies have been born, series have been watched, books have been read. And yes, every one of us reading this message in a home with food in the fridge is on the lucky side of the spectrum. No, the pandemic is not Auschwitz, but it is thick and heavy and we’re so, so tired of it. Now what?

This week in the Torah we hear about a thick and heavy experience too just before we receive the Ten Commandments from God.  And when I say we, I mean the entire nation of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai. As God puts it to Moses, “I will come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you…”

This to me is a profound spiritual point. God comes to us sometimes in a thick, dark, heavy cloud. So what Godly message, what meaning, what powerful commandments are there for us to learn in this thick, Covid era cloud that seems to follow us around every waking moment of our seemingly endless days?  

The Godly messages I have gleaned over these past difficult months we have all endured are so simple you would think a rabbi would have already known them. But now, they have new meaning. So here are my ten Covid Commandments: 

  1. However much we say I love you. It is never enough. No matter how much we hold and are held by the people we love. That too is never enough either.
  2. A busy life and a meaningful life are not the same thing.
  3. You really never know the day or the moment that will be your last, so whatever unfinished emotional business you have with others, get it done.
  4. Nature is healing. Get out there.
  5. It is who, not what we have that makes our lives meaningful.
  6. Call your mom, your dad, your brothers and sisters, and your friends, then call again. It really helps and it really matters.
  7. There are so, so many poor and vulnerable people in our city and our nation. Do something!
  8. Never take teachers, medical workers, and front line service providers for granted again.
  9. Our destiny is literally in each other’s hands. Let’s take care of each other.    
  10. Do not forget any of the above by simply returning to your old self when this nightmare is over. To remember and live these lessons bestowed upon us from the dark and heavy cloud is Godly and beautiful.