It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
Having been slammed by COVID, we have all found ourselves looking at the world through slightly different eyes. The past nine months have taught us quite a bit about life and we have all found ourselves rethinking our priorities on many an occasion, realizing what matters most. It’s been a tough nine months for everyone, but I would like to think that amidst all the hardships, we have grown in positive ways and that even when social distancing and masks are behind us, we will take those lessons with us to the next chapter in our lives.
It was just before Purim when COVID hit and, at the time, we were dumfounded by the notion that the pandemic would diminish the celebration of a Jewish holiday, even a relatively minor one. That same sense of disbelief was everywhere as Pesach drew near, and even as we made plans to have sedarim without any guests, we were confident that by the end of the year COVID would be history. But here we are in the middle of a second wave, with an understanding of Chanukah that we never could have had even a year ago.
We know what it is like to have government officials trying to shut down our schools and our yeshivas. We have experienced locked shuls and faced significant worries about other fundamental elements of our existence, with our health and our livelihoods threatened. Having had our businesses closed and seen shortages in our supermarkets, we can almost glimpse a glimmer of what it must have been like for the Maccabim as they searched every nook and cranny of the Beis Hamikdash for even the smallest amount of shemen zayis zach.
COVID has given us the ability to see Chanukah, at least to a small extent, through the eyes of those who lived in that time. But it has also given us an opportunity to experience a taste of what life is like for who struggle with abuse, addiction and other mental health issues. How many of us really knew what it was like to fear for our lives before the pandemic hit? How many of us ever understood what it is like to have stretches of days blurring into each other because the world as we knew it has ceased to exist? How many of us have ever experienced true isolation or been forced to miss out on birthdays, weddings and yomim tovim because circumstances had turned our lives upside down?
Chanukah is a time when we celebrate a time in history where we went from darkness to light, and with coronavirus vaccines finally become a reality, we are hopeful that the pandemic will soon be behind us. But as we begin to emerge from this particularly trying time, we need to remember those who live perpetually in the shadows, whose struggles won’t end when herd immunity finally kicks in. Having experienced even the tiniest fraction of what it means to be in crisis as COVID held us in its murky grip, we can see and feel the pain of those who are tormented by abuse and addiction like never before and we can’t just go on with our lives and leave them behind to suffer in silence.
As we take in the glow of the menorah and see the light at the end of the tunnel known as the pandemic, each one of us should take a moment to consider what we can do to help someone who is struggling, so that their flame can burn brightly once again. Looking at the world through the prison of the pandemic, this past year has given us the ability to see life more clearly than ever before. As we celebrate the miracle of Chanukah and look ahead to a brighter tomorrow, let us all double our efforts to be there for those in pain, chasing away their darkness and filling their lives with light.