Standing in the valley

Nahma Nadich

A message from Deputy Director Nahma Nadich:

Though each season in New England has its unique pleasures (Colorful leaves! Snowshoeing! Flowers in bloom!) I must admit to loving summer most of all. Yes, I’m an unapologetic beach bum, but I also just appreciate the generally slower pace, the opportunity to get away, to read more novels and to socialize.

Summer 2021 was one that began with real promise. The miraculously quick delivery of the COVID vaccine meant that it was finally safe to venture out of our homes, shed our Zoom fatigue and see one another in person, beginning with overdue hugs. When we checked in with friends and family, we even went so far as to use terms like “during the Pandemic” to describe the past. We congratulated ourselves for having gotten through such a tough time.

But as we approach the fall, it’s clear that *this* is far from over. We’re not done worrying about the safety of our loved ones, the word “unprecedented” is still part of our daily vocabulary and we continue to rely on screens to connect with one another. Synagogues are beginning yet another Jewish year, in a scramble to provide meaningful and safe ways for their communities to gather for prayer - indoors outdoors, virtually - and astonishingly, for many, all three. And throughout the broader community, all are navigating uncertainty about returning safely and responsibly to school, and to our places of work.

There is a scene in this week’s Torah portion that keeps replaying in my mind. Once the Children of Israel have crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land, Moses charges them to engage in a strange ceremony. Half of the Twelve Tribes are to stand on one mountain (Har Gerizim) to hear a set of blessings that will be bestowed on those who follow the divine commandments, and the other half are to assemble on the neighboring mountain (Har Ebal) to hear the curses befalling all those who do not.

Setting aside the complex theological debates inspired by this passage, I’m struck by the very human drama of standing in the valley between these two mountains, between blessings and curses. This is the valley we now find ourselves in, between the suffering we experienced, witnessed and are still vulnerable to in this continuing pandemic, and the joy we felt, all too briefly, at the promise of returning to our lives and reconnecting with one another.

Though the individual circumstances of our lives may differ, we are all summoning the strength and finding the perspective and patience to wait a bit longer to return to whatever “normal” is ahead. I know that our community’s wise rabbis will have words of inspiration to offer as we gather – in all the ways we will – in the coming weeks. And that our friends who are leaders of other faiths, will do all that they can to spiritually sustain their flocks in navigating this moment.

As someone whose personal and professional life is centered on my relationships with others (my work home for the last 22 years has “Relations” in its name!), I am sustained and buoyed by every conversation that brings me closer to family, friends, colleagues and partners. In the last couple of months, I’ve celebrated each opportunity to connect with people I care about, face to face. But the Delta variant (and the stubborn resistance of far too many to a safe and effective vaccine) have stalled our road to recovery. So, for the time being, I’ll be connecting in any way I can – in person when safe, outdoors as the weather allows, and once again on screen, remembering to be grateful for the human ingenuity which produced the technology that binds us together. And when we finally emerge from this valley, I hope that my appreciation for the blessing of human connection and proximity never wanes.

Shabbat shalom,

Nahma