All we want to do during the pandemic is fast-forward. We want to rush ahead — past winter, past inauguration, past vaccine distribution. We want to rush ahead to a new normal so that the pandemic vanishes into a thing of the past. But as my father always taught me: time is the only thing of value we have in life because it is the one thing we never get back. Rushing ahead becomes an exercise in vanity. “Now” is only reality.
Judaism implicitly teaches us not to rush ahead. In fact, we are meant to live yom b’yomo — day by day. Surely this may sound pollyannish. However, we recite modeh ani every morning when we wake up for just this reason. We take stock in the “in-between.”
“I am grateful to You, Living and Eternal Ruler, for You returned within me my soul with compassion — Your faithfulness abounds!”
The rabbis teach us that sleep is 1/60 of death (BT Berakhot 57b). Our body slows down—our breathing, our heart rate, everything. We hibernate — and by no small feat, we stay alive. God-willing, we stay alive.
We wake up each morning and it is a miracle—and not a small one. A large miracle that happens to each one of us—every single morning.
During the pandemic, when we wake up, knowing that there are thousands of others who have not been so lucky or wake up without their sense of taste or smell, or God forbid maladies much worse, we should be grateful. Eternally grateful.
We are about to embark on the season of gratitude and the season of miracles — the month of Kislev and the holiday of Thanksgiving. Some years ago they coincided — but this year the message (even though they’re in mere proximity) is that much more poignant. We are grateful for one more day — one day more. And at the very least, that should be our intention — just one more day — the miracle of one more day.
If we are to live without rushing ahead, wishing time away, our focus changes on spending each day intentionally. We are no longer staring at the clock or the back-to-back-to-back zoom schedule of the day. Instead, we are thinking: how can I squeeze in five more minutes of reading in bed with my kids; how can I fit in a run this afternoon; how can I make time for dinner with my partner; how can I make sure that I can finish reading my book tonight — or watching my show — or calling my parents.
If we focus on getting through each day, and only each day, one day at a time, then, though the days will continue to feel long, they will no doubt be full, and the weeks will come to feel short and fast.
One day we will tell stories of this time — and we will hopefully remember every second and every minute. We will remember the heartache and the laughter, the tears of joy and sadness. But we will remember each moment because we did not speed past them. Instead, we relished in them and allowed ourselves to find meaning and a way to offer thanks. Modeh Ani.