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Reentry Anxiety

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By Rabbi Ahuva Zaches
Congregation Or Ami

Compared to this time last year, we are in a much better place with regard to the pandemic.

A significant percentage of our population over age 12 has been vaccinated, and the updated CDC guidelines are allowing us to engage in more activities that we consider part of a “normal life.”

But even with these wonderful updates, many people are still wrestling with uncertainties related to the question of how exactly we transition from a pandemic world into a post-pandemic world.

As we grapple with this question, we are privileged to do so with significant insight from our spiritual ancestors’ experiences.

Our Ancestors

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors also experienced an upheaval that completely changed their lives. In their case, there was a famine instead of a disease that caused the upheaval. Rather than stay at home, our ancestors had to leave their home just to stay alive. And so, they made their way from the Land of Israel to the Land of Egypt.

While our ancestors’ time in Egypt started out okay and provided them with the food they desperately needed to survive a famine, it was not long before their lives became characterized by suffering.

A new pharaoh arose and enslaved them. Deprived of dignity and freedom, our ancestors cried out for help, and God responded by taking them out of Egypt and guiding them through a winding wilderness back to the Land of Israel. Their circuitous journey was in many ways similar to the collective journey we are taking this summer and fall.

One Step at a Time

One similarity between these two journeys is the need to take it one step at a time. While God could have miraculously teleported our ancestors straight from Egypt to Israel, God decided to give the people more time to adjust from one way of life to another. After being enslaved for so long, they had to slowly figure out what it meant to be free. After a year and a half of the pandemic, we also need to relearn how to live more freely.

While many of us are eager to get back to normal, some of us may not feel ready to fully re-enter the world quite yet. We each need to determine our own pace for this journey and not pressure loved ones who need to take a slower route.

If our ancestors were allowed to take 40 years to complete their journey, it’s certainly okay for our family or friends to take a few more weeks or months to complete theirs. What matters most about these two journeys is not the speed, but rather the direction.

As long as we keep moving forward, we will arrive at our destination sooner or later. For our ancestors, that destination was a lush land flowing with milk and honey. For us, it may be a big brunch with friends or a normal school year. Both of these destinations are ultimately about returning home and reconnecting to the familiar aspects of life that we enjoyed in the past.

May we offer support, understanding, and encouragement to one another as we take this journey back home together.

And let us say: Amein

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