The excitement arose that morning with the sun. It was cooked into the day itself; the good vibes sat heavily in the air like a fresh cinnamon bun. That is if your sense of smell hadn’t been taken away by the virus. That day was the day I was ready to go outside again.
My wife had already left the house a few times. 5:30 a.m. wake-ups for 6 a.m. pre-crowd Walmart runs were becoming routine, even if Instacart had taken the dominating role in our shopping experience. But ever since we returned from New York in mid-March, I had for the most part not seen the skies without a glass partition.
With a new mask on my face, I took a bold step outside my door. I raised my eyes across the street and there he was. A human being not from my family. It happened to be my wonderful neighbor, Scott, who brings a smile to my face even on an average day. But on this day, the sight of any real person was enough to make me giddy.
“Hi. It’s so good to see you again.”
“Wow, is it good to see you again. How are you?”
“Um, you know. Great, considering. I hope to see you again soon.”
The conversation ended. But something that used to feel so mundane now felt different. It was awesome. Was that how human interaction was supposed to be? Did weeks of worldwide quarantine finally remind us how happy we should be to see each other? Perhaps after spending so much time in isolation, humanity could reach a new plateau of positivity and kindness with one another.
That day now seems ages ago. It seems we’ve even gone backward.
This weekend, we once again start reading the Torah from, “In the Beginning” (Genesis 1:1). Only a few weeks ago we started the beginning of the year 5781 on Rosh Hashanah. In a few months, Passover will spark the beginning of the cycle of the “three festivals” leading to Shavuot and Sukkot once more. Might it perhaps be more efficient to begin everything all at once? Why doesn’t Judaism just have one big party to launch our year, holidays and reading of the Torah all together?
Perhaps we need as many beginnings as possible. Because even a short time can cause us to forget what we value and what we can accomplish. Every opportunity for a fresh start is worth taking. So let’s start again with refreshed positivity. Hi, neighbor. It is so good to see you.
Rabbi Arieh Friedner is the founder of Torah Institute Beyond Campus, a semi-virtual learning platform for motivated Jewish college students seeking mentorship and study opportunities beyond those available to them on or off-campus.