If there’s one thing we have learned from this tumultuous time, it is that nothing is promised. Your child may have been eagerly looking for forward to celebrating a bar or bat mitzvah and now this simply is not to be. You may have been counting the days to a long awaited trip away only for it to be unceremoniously cancelled. There may simply have been a large family Shabbat dinner in the calendar, something so standard and suddenly it is declared forbidden.
Now as we look to slowly returning to the lives we abruptly left behind, amongst the fear and the caution, there is also a deep understanding that each activity, no matter how basic, is truly a gift:
– to hug my parents;
– to share a meal with friends;
– to send my children off to school;
– to enjoy the simple pleasure of the theatre or a movie.
Gratitude has been a modern hash tag and an over-used sentiment in recent years. I can’t help but feel that as a word it now lacks the gravitas to convey what it feels like to have been in such a place of fear and uncertainty and to find oneself, once again on safer ground. We need something weightier; something that acknowledges we may NOT have got to this place; that we may not have been privileged to experience this slow exit from our cocoon; something that celebrates that we are alive, well and ready to live again.
So where do I find myself turning to so as to give words to this relief in my soul? I find myself saying the ancient prayer of Shehecheyanu as I slowly inch back into the world:
Blessed are You, Lord of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.
These words, which are usually reserved for a festival or for doing something for the first time encapsulate for me, the joy, the wonder and the recognition that life is filled with moments that are all gifts . The newness of our old lives is deserving of a Shehecheyanu. For a while there we thought that we were almost guaranteed it all so we could “save” our Shehecheyanu for certain special events and prescribed moments. But we have been shown otherwise. And so I turn to this prayer.
It will be a Shehecheyanu moment, when my daughter can continue her VCE studies at school and when my son can play Ajax footy again. We will all say Shehecheyanu as we sit around our long, full Shabbat table, surrounded by family who have not sat together for many weeks. It will be a Shehecheyanu moment when I can board a flight overseas or welcome visitors from abroad to our home. So many precious moments to be acknowledged. I have found a way to express how grateful I am with words that have been uttered by our people across the generations.
I’m no religious scholar so I hope it’s ok to be reciting these words at my discretion. Somehow, I don’t see how it can be wrong to give thanks and acknowledgment to G-d for being able to once again enjoy all the bits and pieces, moments and events that we have missed during these times. To have been given life and to be sustained to see this moment. After all, if we have learned anything, it is that nothing is promised to us.