We Were Like People in a Dream
Updated: Mar 12, 2021
It's an anniversary today. Not a happy anniversary but an anniversary which will go down in history. It will be there with the pandemic of 1918 and with other life shattering pandemics over the centuries.
Today when attending my weekly talmud class, the teacher mentioned Shir HaMaalot, which is Psalm 126. In this psalm there is a line, a line that we sing before Birkat Hamazon on Shabbat and holidays which reads, "When the Lord returned the captives of Zion, we were like people in a dream". Those words, "Like people in a dream" kept circling in my head today. A year ago, as the pandemic was announced, as we entered this prolonged period of time which held so many unknowns, so many fears and uncertainties, it was as though we were in a dream. Sometimes when we dream we feel as though our movement is hampered and difficult. Sometimes we feel like we float above things and sometimes we feel paralyzed and cannot move at all. This was dream of 2020-2021; it was a time when we were captured and held hostage by a disease. We were collectively caught in a bad dream together and we all collectively were either paralyzed or floating aimlessly or moving in a world where we recognized some landmarks, but the land was in darkness and we could not move. Perhaps that is what the darkness of the plague in Egypt was; perhaps people could not see how to move or where to move. The darkness was overwhelming and complete. Without our normal markers and surroundings, we were lost.
In this dreamlike darkness some of us were privileged to merely sit back and wait. Others had no choice but to navigate this dream landscape in real time and risk their health to do so. Others created worlds within the four walls of their homes. Until my father died a few years ago he would return from synagogue on Yom Kippur and dip his finger in a honey jar. He would then go to the four corners of the house and place a drop of honey in each corner, to make the home a place of sweetness. Never has home been so sweet as it was for this past year. Never have we had the opportunity to get to know our sweet homes from top to bottom and certainly every corner. Never has our home become a school, a restaurant, a synagogue, a virtual meeting place. Like the gourd that grew over Jonah's head, our homes sheltered us, enveloped us within their four walls.
This year of dreams has been a year of firsts and for too many people, of year of bitter lasts. Although we have been moving as though in a dream, still it has been a year of change. Perhaps you already can feel those changes in you. Perhaps you are more patient now than a year ago or perhaps have more respect for others or perhaps you have had to dig deep within to find a creative spark that you did not know was there. Perhaps you are stronger than you have given yourself credit for. When you look back on this period, find your strengths and be proud of your resilience no matter what you were doing.
Because of the intelligence, grit, creativity and courage of so many, this year of dreams will soon come to an end and we will awaken and be able to navigate the world once again. We may want to forget this period of time; to tuck it away in a place where we don't have to feel like we are walking in darkness again, and we can do that, but let's get moving again with a newfound strength, gratitude to those people who have forged the way out of the darkness and respect for life. May the new day break soon and may we be awakened from this dreamlike slumber and greet the sun with renewed energy and appreciation for all it brings. The long night is coming to an end.
126קכ״ו Psalm 126 from Sefaria שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת בְּשׁ֣וּב יְ֭הוָה אֶת־שִׁיבַ֣ת צִיּ֑וֹן הָ֝יִ֗ינוּ כְּחֹלְמִֽים׃ A song of ascents. When the LORD restores the fortunes of Zion —we see it as in a dream— אָ֤ז יִמָּלֵ֪א שְׂח֡וֹק פִּינוּ֮ וּלְשׁוֹנֵ֪נוּ רִ֫נָּ֥ה אָ֭ז יֹאמְר֣וּ בַגּוֹיִ֑ם הִגְדִּ֥יל יְ֝הוָ֗ה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִם־אֵֽלֶּה׃ our mouths shall be filled with laughter, our tongues, with songs of joy. Then shall they say among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them!” הִגְדִּ֣יל יְ֭הוָה לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת עִמָּ֗נוּ הָיִ֥ינוּ שְׂמֵחִֽים׃ The LORD will do great things for us and we shall rejoice. שׁוּבָ֣ה יְ֭הוָה אֶת־שבותנו [שְׁבִיתֵ֑נוּ] כַּאֲפִיקִ֥ים בַּנֶּֽגֶב׃ Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like watercourses in the Negeb. הַזֹּרְעִ֥ים בְּדִמְעָ֗ה בְּרִנָּ֥ה יִקְצֹֽרוּ׃ They who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy. הָ֘ל֤וֹךְ יֵלֵ֨ךְ ׀ וּבָכֹה֮ נֹשֵׂ֪א מֶֽשֶׁךְ־הַ֫זָּ֥רַע בֹּֽ֬א־יָב֥וֹא בְרִנָּ֑ה נֹ֝שֵׂ֗א אֲלֻמֹּתָֽיו׃ Though he goes along weeping, carrying the seed-bag, he shall come back with songs of joy, carrying his sheaves.