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The Blessings of 2020

Recently I started giving myself haircuts. (Bring on the jokes!) I soon realized that no one could tell the difference. And so, I declared I will never go to the barber again. 2020 is bringing more than its share of firsts. My 85-year-old father bought a Peloton. (And my mom bought the cycling shoes as well.)  And, he will never again return to the gym for spin classes. I cook more and go out to restaurants far less. I am even thinking of growing my own vegetables in an indoor garden, but so far it is only some mint.

One day we will actually turn the corner and emerge on the other side of this pandemic. I pray that every one of us will emerge with our health intact and that we will not be so scarred that we will be unable to offer each other the hugs our spirits require. I wonder what changes will become permanent. Will family meals regain their exalted place in our homes? Will family movie nights, or game nights, become fixtures of our lives?

Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving will be unlike any other. And while I won’t miss the cursed traffic, I will miss the extended family members that usually gather with us and even the arguments about politics, theology and who best avoided New York’s traffic delays. I will miss the familiarity of it all, of how we never fail to eat more than we should and tell the same stories year after year.

This year, we have a choice to make.

And here it is. We can dwell on who is missing from our small gatherings. Crowds are both a distant memory and a far-off hope. (I really do miss seeing each and every one of you in person!). Or, we can focus on the new-found blessings we have discovered. Everything is smaller and more intimate. Can we rediscover the wonder, and enjoyment, that now sits before us? Will we offer blessings for the intimacy this year offers?

Among my favorite prayers is the almost never used blessing for a king or queen. Our rabbis authored these words to recite when seeing a ruler: “Blessed are You Adonai our God Ruler of the universe who grants a measure of divine glory to flesh and blood.” What is particularly remarkable about this blessing is that most, if not nearly all, of the kings and queens who ruled over the Jewish people did not deserve any blessings. They persecuted us. They expelled us. They tortured us. The list is quite long.

The rabbis reasoned, however, that it is better to be say blessings and shout praises to God. A soul that is filled with thanks and songs can never truly be subjugated. A spirit that offers blessings can never be defeated.

We have the power to make our own blessings.

Sometimes it is really hard to do—like now, like this year—but it is still within our grasp. History reminds us that we have been through worse. History teaches us that a victorious soul remains within our reach.

Make for yourself new blessings. Relish in them. Give thanks for them—however small and unusual they may seem in comparison to other years and other seasons. I learned how to cut my own hair.

Shout words of gratitude for this year’s blessings!