A message delivered by Rabbi Ari Isenberg on the first Shabbat of 2021:
I want to start this year with a prayer of chizuk, of strength, for this new year, written by my family.
As we welcome 2021, we offer prayers of chizuk to all those who have been afflicted by the pandemic. One year ago, we all knew its name, we read about in newspapers. It felt like something out there, something that did not affect us, but has, over the past year, swept across the entire world, landing on our shores with its full force.
Chizuk also to those, who by choice or necessity, have risen to the occasion, tending directly to the medical needs of those afflicted, and in so doing, placing themselves at risk. We think of the first responders, the nurses and nursing assistants, the respiratory therapists, the orderlies, the technicians and the doctors. And to those who create the safe physical spaces that allow for this medical care, the housekeeping and maintenance staff, among others.
And to those in our society who, on a daily basis, seemingly invisible and yet always at risk, tend to our needs, the needs of the “not-yet-afflicted”, by serving us at the pharmacy, the supermarket, the hardware store, with deliveries to our door, so that we can lead our lives in the best way we can.
And at the very same time that we acknowledge the devastation wrought by this pandemic, we also acknowledge the heroic and successful efforts of the scientists and lab technicians who have developed vaccines, thereby allowing us to have hope for the future, hope for our future.
When we celebrate New Year’s 2022 in a year from now, hopefully inoculated and ready to resume normalcy, may our lives, our society, our shul not simply revert back to look as it did in 2019. No. May we have the chizuk, the fortitude, to distil from this challenging experience all the positives we learned and discovered — empathy, cooperation, compassion, a restructuring of priorities and newfound understanding of what’s really important and necessary, resilience, adaptability, the holy power of technology, creative modes of connection — and infuse our renewed lives with those traits for good and blessing.
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