Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Without dancing, without hakafot (circling the platform where the Torah is read), without children running back and forth, we still celebrate renewal. The world has been turned upside down but the pulse of the nation, regulated by the weekly Torah portion, does not stop. Tomorrow morning we finish reading the entire Torah, and immediately begin to read it all over again. Moshe Rabbeinu blesses the 12 tribes at the end of the book of Deuteronomy and – just like that – God creates the world and the human race.
This year for the first time we read some of the weekly Torah portions alone in our living room, in courtyard minyans (prayer services), and sometimes in isolation or in lockdown. The seminal words – “The Torah which Moses commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4) – will be read tomorrow in playgrounds, on sidewalks, and under shade structures. The Jewish world has absorbed a powerful blow – to its financial, physical, and mental health. Our brothers in the Jewish communities of Mexico and Panama have not heard a public Torah reading in months. Our brothers in France and in London have buried hundreds from their congregations, while being prohibited from attending their funerals. Public gatherings are what Judaism is all about and suddenly they are banned. So this year we learned that yearning for what we once took for granted is also important.
Yet the Jewish story is greater than the corona. The corona is temporary but our story is eternal. The corona will disappear, hopefully soon. But we will continue to tell the story that we have always told from week to week, from generation to generation, and together we will add new chapters to it.
May everyone have a joyous holiday. Chag sameach.