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Seeing in the dark 

12/22/2020 02:30:56 PM


As 2020 nears an end, public health experts have warned that the coming season will be a “dark winter,” and “the darkest days of the pandemic.”

Hearing that the days ahead will be dark signals danger to us. We associate darkness with danger, and that is natural.  

We humans are wired to be wary of the dark. We are not nocturnal animals, whose eyes can adjust to enable vision in the nighttime. For us, darkness can conceal danger and make us vulnerable.

Yet, we have reached the winter solstice, and we know that the days will begin to lengthen once again. We can also see other kinds of light, other reasons to hope.

The first Americans are getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Perhaps this summer we may be able to travel again. And, more important, we may be able to gather again.

But before we set our sights on the light that is coming, I think it is valuable to spend a little more time considering the darkness.

Darkness and light are not necessarily opposites, one bad and the other good. This is illustrated by the structure of the human eye, the organ of vision, composed of black and white, dark and light.

The medieval commentator Rashi notes that it is from the dark area of the eye – the pupil – that “light emanates.”     

Another sage comments that humans do not see through the white part of the eye, but “rather through the black” – the pupil.

One way to think of these observations: We can gain insight and understanding from the dark times in our lives.

 When I reflect on my life, I recognize that it was the difficulties and struggles, the sadness and losses, that offered me insights from which I could grow.

I treasure the moments of joy in my life, certainly. But these joyful moments did not teach me as much as the difficult moments have.

So I turn to the question: What have we learned from our own time in the dark days of the pandemic?

Here are some of the things I have learned.

I have learned not to take my health and the health of my loved ones for granted.

I have learned that perhaps my life was out of balance.  I was too rushed, too focused on doing instead of just being.

I have been reminded that the inequities in our nation and our world in terms of wealth, education, access to technology and health care are vast and persistent. As Jews, it is our responsibility to take note of these inequities and resolve to do our part to alleviate them.

I have learned that I may have taken my ability to spend time in the company of other people for granted.  “Netflix and chill” on the couch can get old.

We miss each other.  This pandemic reaffirms the truth that the most important thing we have in this world is each other.  If we learn only that, we will have learned well.

Twelve months ago, many of us greeted the year 2020 as a chance for a fresh start, new opportunities, new hope. We did not know what the year 2020 would bring.

Today, we can affirm that the year 2020 may have enabled us to see more clearly.  It may have brought the good vision that the number 20/20 represents.

As we reflect on the year that has passed, may we recognize what we discerned in its dark moments, the vision it enabled us to achieve, the insights we gained about our life’s priorities and the values we hold dear, as the light of our days begins to lengthen.



Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782