I see my kids staring out of the window. The longing in their eyes hurts. I look away
What do I hear?
You must be joking.
Why don’t you ask what I see? I can tell you what I see. I see a line of people outside the grocery store stretching down the block. There’s a light drizzle. People’s brows are pulled down, their collars pulled up. No one is smiling.
I see my kids riding down one half of the block, the neighbor’s kids riding down the other half. As if there’s an invisible border between two countries that suddenly sprung up on the sidewalk, they stop as they meet in the middle and immediately turn around.
I see two older teens in white shirts and black pants. The first is behind a table at one end of a driveway. He’s standing and gesturing in a manner that connects him to thousands of men over hundreds of years who have raised their voices and moved their hands in that same way. The other one has his back to me, seated behind a shtender at the other end of the driveway. They both have gemaras in front of them. I smile.
I see the shul down the block, where my husband and kids daven. The lights have been off for an awfully long time. It looks lonely. It must be lonely.
I am lonely.
I see masks and gloves, guarding the faces of those who pass, strolling, jogging, walking dogs. Other masks discarded in the street, the new litter of New York City.
I see my kids staring out of the window. The longing in their eyes hurts. I look away.
I see a street minyan one morning as I wander down a random block. There are men in front of their doors, on porches, at windows. The chazzan is bellowing the words that have suddenly become more precious. I watch for a moment as they attempt to heed the law of the land and the law of their Creator, huddled under talleisim in the early chill of the morning. I turn back so as not to disturb them, my eyes suddenly wet. My heart feels full.
I see Zoom. At least it’s you. But it’s not really.
After not having been together since the middle of the winter, I see my parents. They drive up and park. The kids sit carefully on the steps. They stand carefully at the curb. Huge smiles. Group wave. We talk a little. We do not invite them inside. We do not offer them dinner. We do not jump on them with hugs and kisses and take their hands and pull them with excitement to show them all the million and one things grandparents absolutely must see. More waving. They climb back into the car. We watch them drive away.
I hear, too. I’m not deaf.
Listen up? I’m listening. I promise.
What exactly am I supposed to be hearing?
Once, multitudes of people spread out in the desert, bent before their leader. Moshe stood before them, the rarified human who connected them with their Leader. Moshe spoke. They heard. It was that simple. Or maybe it wasn’t that simple. At least the message was there for the taking.
Then there’s little me, in a gigantic universe being stricken and rocked and turned on its side. People lose jobs, stocks plummet, hospitals are witnessing unthinkable scenes, the list of Tehillim names is too long to read. So many people sick. Some no longer with us.
What is it, Hashem, You want me to hear?
You are taking control of the reins the world thought was theirs and leading us to some goal knowable only to You. You are moving pieces on a cosmic chess board to a Divine checkmate.
Shema doesn’t mean to hear. It means to listen, to understand. I get it. I know.
Amidst the chaos and confusion, the sickness and pain, there’s so much I don’t know. I don’t know how my kids will gain back the lost ground in their learning. I don’t know if there will be camp. I don’t know if there will be school in the fall. I don’t know how we’ll manage financially. I don’t know if there will be another wave, or wavelets, I don’t even know the difference between the two. I don’t know if we’ll all somehow become immune and COVID-19 will end. Tomorrow. Please.
Shema. If I listen closely, the quiet murmur under the cacophony is audible. It’s Your world. It’s Your call. You — with Your infinite might, Your infinite care, Your infinite knowledge — You know. And that is enough.
Maybe I can raise my hand and hold on to You tighter, close my eyes in submission before Your power and never-ending love, and follow as You beckon me forward.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 695)
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