Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The wedding was absolutely beautiful, extremely lively, and genuinely simchadik. We were especially gratified that my beloved mother-in-law and many of our wonderful siblings from the U.S. had come to the Holy Land to enjoy, and at the same time exponentially increase our simcha. Best of all, nine of our ten children and most of their spouses were able to attend and participate in the festivities as well.

In fact, the only one of our kids who could not make it had the best of excuses: She was due any day with her second child. Sure enough, during the whirlwind week of sheva brachos, we received the happy news. B’H we were the proud Saba and Savta of a delicious new grandson! We booked tickets and flew off to LA to help the young couple and attend the bris.

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And although we were both undeniably in a state of happy exhaustion, we were quite sure that we were not hallucinating when we landed in LAX and beheld an other-worldly and totally unfamiliar image: the sight of scores of passengers and airport personnel wearing masks over the lower portion of their faces!

At that point, we had not yet heard the terms “coronavirus” or “Covid-19” and were only vaguely familiar with the word “pandemic.” All of which we, along with the entire global community, unfortunately were soon to know and experience on a daily basis.

Now, almost a year since what proved to be our initial introduction to the virus and simultaneously our last airplane flight to date, we are living in a new reality that we never envisioned before those words entered our lexicon and our day-to-day lives. Along with social-distancing, lockdowns, and (thankfully) two-dose Covid-19 vaccinations.

Our lives have effectively been upended for many long and fearful months, and the toll in lives lost and disrupted is staggering indeed… And it is sadly not yet over.

Still, despite all the irrefutable misery it engendered, this unprecedented worldwide pandemic likewise taught us certain valuable lessons along the way. While different people have gleaned varied takeaways based on their own perspectives, I have learned to better appreciate the ‘simple’ things in life that are actually far from simple: a hug, a smile, a caress, quality time spent in the company of loved ones, and so much more.

On the flip side, I have also been shown that less can indeed be more. We b’H made two additional weddings since that aforementioned pre-corona simcha; one was limited to nineteen participants, while some one-hundred-and-twenty guests attended the second. Both were surprisingly beautiful in their own way. In the end result, the band, florist, and venue have less to do with the quality of the event than the happiness and joy of the participants, our nearest and dearest. As an unexpected added bonus, Zoom and livestream links enabled hundreds of other relatives and friends to participate from afar.

Other than these poignant life lessons, I have had the time and headspace to notice several smaller and seemingly less significant developments which brought a smile to my face, undisputed warmth to my heart, and proved to me that HaKadosh Baruch Hu was lovingly by my side throughout this tension-fraught and severely restrictive time.

Some “little” things that made a “big” difference: When all the gown shops and gemachim were closed by Ministry of Health regulations, we managed to find a young woman in our neighborhood who not only wore the same size and fit as me, but serendipitously owned gowns in both of the colors I needed. I was able to ‘rent’ them from her for a modest fee, and neither required any alterations whatsoever! Call that what you like; I call it a “small miracle!”

In another neighbor-related incident, I ordered candlesticks for our newly-married son based on a screenshot of the pair he and his kallah had chosen. That particular design was out-of-stock at the time, so I only received it a month-and-a-half later. A lovely neighbor of mine is a silversmith, so I intentionally did not request that the set be lacquered before it was shipped, preferring to send some business his way, particularly in these financially-challenging times.

It was only after our purchase finally arrived that I discovered how fortunate that seemingly altruistic gesture was… I apparently had made an error in ordering on the Hebrew website and mistakenly chosen the correct model sans the embellishment that my children had wanted. After contacting the manufacturer, I was reassured that they had another customer in my neighborhood who likewise received the wrong item, and their messenger would come to our respective addresses to take care of the exchanges, with no cost (or travel) for either of us! I belatedly realized that they would most likely have not even agreed to switch a lacquered set, let alone provide free shipping again!

Another more long-term discovery I made occurred when my husband and I were mandated to be in quarantine together after one of his students tested positive for Covid-19. Happily both we and our marriage survived the ten days of together time with flying colors. And b’H neither of us caught the virus. In fact the hardest part for me was the restriction on leaving the house whatsoever, even to run a quick errand or take a short walk in the fresh air.

Out of desperation, I started davening Shacharis each morning on the large mirpeset off our living room. Not only was I able to enjoy the beautiful unseasonable weather and a healthy dose of fresh air, but I found that I was far more focused on my tefillot than usual. So much so that I have continued that new practice even after our quarantine period ended. And thankfully now the three steps back and forth at the beginning and end of the amidah are no longer my sole source of daily exercise!

So although my husband and I jumped at the opportunity to be vaccinated and fervently pray for this cursed virus to be over, the sick to be healed in body and soul, and life to return to some semblance of normal as soon as possible, there are definitely some invaluable take-aways from this very difficult era.

I hope that the important lessons I’ve learned over the past year, regarding maintaining the proper priorities in life and always seeing Hashem’s loving presence, will remain with me and guide me as the glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel transforms into a beacon of hope, and we all be’H step forward into a bright, beautiful, and healthy future.

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