2021 was the Year of the Vaccine!
For a while, we all once again felt safer and nearly invincible. But as infections spiked and the Omicron variant proliferated, we were forced to admit to not really having regained control. Nor can we guess how soon it may be before life returns to some state of ‘predictability’.
לִישׁוּעָתְךָ, קִוִּיתִי יְהוָה.
‘For Your salvation I hope, O Lord’ (Gen 49:18). Jacob blessed his son Dan to ‘hope’ daily for our collective redemption. Hope is ‘to wait for something with expectation and anticipation’, but without certainty that it will occur. Hope is transitory and subjective; our hope these past 21 months waxed and waned with the evolving virus.
וְהֶאֱמִן, בַּיהוָה; וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לּוֹ, צְדָקָה.
‘And he [Abraham] had faith in the Lord, and God counted it to him for righteousness.’ (Gen 15:6) Faith (Emunah) stems from the Hebrew word Uman or craftsperson. It is a skill; honed through years of practise and experience. Abraham’s ten tests of faithfulness weren’t an inconvenience but a blessing – they were a Divine masterclass in developing inner strength, increasing his ‘faith’ confidence, and expanding his reservoir of resilience. The sages tell us ‘We’re never tested in ways that exceed our ability to overcome them’.
2021 was also a Year for Volunteering.
Beyond having ‘faith’ is the spiritual immunization that comes from volunteering. The Torah is replete with verses about looking after those in need – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and creating shelters for the homeless. For many, 2021 took us beyond our comfort zones to actively helping others. Whether delivering supplies to isolated neighbours, distributing meals in a food bank, assisting in a vaccine centre, or countless other roles, volunteering provided us an extra layer of spiritual strength and goodness.
We are realising that the Almighty is always present, always loving, always providing the energy for existence, without which life would cease. It is worrying to lose control and it is wearisome not knowing when the virus will disappear. But fretting in excess is not a solution. Admittedly, some of us are still frightened of becoming infected, though statistics show that vaccinations are the best way to mitigate the danger.
As we enter the third calendar year in which the pandemic continues to impact our movement and impinge our ability to plan forward, let’s draw strength from our respective heritages, recognising that being tested is a blessing. The new future we’re creating requires not only hope and helping others, but genuine faith in God.
Rabbi Jeff Berger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org