After a brief reprieve, once again, Covid has become the primary topic of conversation.
How could it not?
The news and statistics confirm that it is prolific, and many of us have first-hand experience with it in our households.
Personally, I know of close to 50 people who currently have Covid. All of them “vaxed to the max.” Fortunately, none of them are exhibiting symptoms worse than a mild flu.
Clearly increased caution is mandated, for there remain many unknowns.
Like many of you, I find myself pushing back against the sense of despondency that has become all too familiar over the past two years.
And yet, the part of me that I have come to trust the most is surprisingly optimistic. Not necessarily about what the near future will bring; but rather, who we will become through this process.
There is a set of midrashim (stories within stories) from our Torah that posit that our redemption out of Egyptian slavery (the subject of this week’s parashah, Vaera) was entirely due to… the Israelite women.
Things were bleak for us.
As a way of weakening our resolve, Pharaoh had forbidden all forms of intimacy amongst the Jews. And with that came internal decisions that we made for ourselves that led to hopelessness and despair.
Joy was as far away as our freedom. Hope was too painful to consider.
Knowing that their future was at stake, the Israelite women came to their husbands in the night while they were quarantined in the fields.
This was not portrayed as anything romantic, for the men were exhausted, and filthy, and all but broken.
The women, equal in their squalor, brought with them small gifts to share: tiny fishes, thimbles of wine, and their hand mirrors.
The fish and wine were used for nourishment, and to remind them of past shared experiences, those predictable, simple pleasures.
But their mirrors… those were used for something truly wonderful.
With the moon as their light, the women would initiate a game with their husbands, of making faces in the mirror to illicit laughter…and compliments…and eventually, desire.
The familial rituals and interactions, when paired with intention to bring joy where there was none, was enough to get us all through the darkest night.
Later, the sages would say that this simple act was enough to make us worthy of being redeemed, implying that without it, we would have been lost.
Tomorrow night there will be secular New Year’s celebrations. Perhaps you are partaking in them, if so, I hope you will do it safely.
But tomorrow night is also Shabbat. Our familiar rituals of joy, and interactions of peoplehood, bring out the very best of who are, and the selves who we remember we can be.
Friday night’s Shabbat sermon will speak of tiny fishes, and wine, and the hand-mirrors held by all the Israelite women to keep our people from the muck and the gloom. Taking joy in one another when we have the chance, celebrations, and even desire.
Whether in person (Covid protocols) or online…See you there!