Now that spring has sprung and vaccines have blossomed, we are all starting to look back at 2020 and the first half of 2021 realizing that not all that came out of the Covid-19 pandemic was bad. Really? A pandemic and I can say there was some good that occurred because of Covid??? This is not to diminish the horrible loss of lives and those who suffered because of Covid. We wept with friends and all suffered as we read the numbers and statistics daily. Those statistics were friends and relatives and strangers. We will continue to mourn their deaths and pray for complete recoveries for those still experiencing long-term symptoms.
In 2019, I wrote about Shabbat for this publication. In that article, I said “Give Shabbat a Try.” Add one thing to your Shabbat that will make it special. Light candles. Say kiddush. Have a special dinner together. Be thankful. Stop and take a breath. These small gestures add holiness to your life.
During 2020 and 2021, this emphasis on stopping and taking a breath, adding holiness to our lives and being thankful—for our families and for good health—moved to the forefront of our minds. Shabbat once again gave us the opportunity to do these small gestures on a weekly basis.
How did my Shabbats change during Covid? I made a lot more challahs and tried lots of challah recipes from Instagrammers I follow. I attended challah baking classes even though I’ve made homemade challah for 46 years. I learned how to braid 4-braid, 5-braid, 6-braid and 7-braid loaves, as well as more of my favorite challah art! I learned the prayer and mitzvah for making 5# of challah dough. I made loaf after loaf and shared them with others in my small Jewish community, leaving them fresh baked challah on their doorsteps and sending them a text to look on their porch. It connected me to my Sioux Falls Jewish community even when we were not physically together. A challah did that!
The desire to be connected with friends extended out to my Hadassah community across the United States. Many of us started posting photos of our beautiful challahs, wishing each other Shabbat Shalom. New friends in Hadassah, and some who have been my friends for many, many years connected because we were all feeling alone and needed each other. Challah baking—and Hadassah—connected us on Friday afternoons pre-Shabbat. Two of my best friends in Hadassah and I started a group text pre-Shabbat—just to connect; just to say Shabbat Shalom! Hadassah connected us and continues to connect us. And we will continue to bake challahs and we will continue to connect for Shabbat.
Zoom and FaceTime also enabled us to connect this last year in ways we hadn’t before. We held Zoom Seders. We went to Zoom brises. We went to too many Zoom funerals and shiva calls. But Zoom and FaceTime also enabled us to connect in other ways as well. One of my favorite outcomes of the pandemic involves Shabbat. At the beginning of the pandemic last spring, we held Zoom candle lightings and Oneg Shabbats with friends from our Jewish community. We missed our community and being together at Mt. Zion Temple. Then something happened. I was at my daughter’s in Texas and we Zoomed candle lighting, kiddush and hamotzi with my husband, Grandpa, at home. We knew he was at home and Shabbat is lonely if you have no one to be with. My then 6- and 8-year-old grandsons, their mother and father and I all joined in. We made challah at my daughter’s and the boys helped. We did the rituals and then we all had dinner together and just talked. We breathed for a moment. We let Shabbat envelop our lives. We “gave Shabbat a try” long distance. And it was wonderful! We continued that every Friday night. The boys even started reminding us that it was Friday and we light candles, and they get some grape juice! I went back home to South Dakota and we continued to light candles, say kiddush and recite the motzi, but now the boys were saying the prayers. We continued to just breathe as Shabbat settled in. Ahhhhhh.
The question for all the things we experienced during Covid is will we continue? Did we learn anything about ourselves and our priorities and our love for family and friends? I think so! I pray so!