“We’re almost halfway there.”
So began a recent public health message that our area is almost halfway down the covid-19 curve. Now is the time, the message urged, to keep doing what we’re doing – maintain protections, check on each other, don’t let our guard down, don’t surrender progress in flattening the curve.
Instantly I thought, “Almost halfway there? Halfway there? You’ve got to be kidding.” I felt my endurance slacken, and with it – for a moment – my mood and my hope.
“Distancing fatigue” is real. Nationwide, people getting sick and tired of precautions and protections are venturing forth before it’s fully safe. They’re pushing boundaries, rejecting science and defying authorities. “I just can’t take it anymore” is an increasingly common refrain.
At the same time, more people are reaching a level, almost accustomed to these social dynamics that felt impossibly hard weeks ago. “I’m surprised that I’m getting used to it” also is an increasingly common refrain.
Odds are that you’re somewhere on that spectrum, and probably not in just one place. Odds are that your felt sense of it may vary – even by the day, even by the hour. Me, too.
The marathon that is our response to covid-19 is far from over. The science is that we are just approaching halfway down the infection curve: an over-eager “return to normal” would be dangerous. And even when this season’s covid crisis abates, there’s more to do. There are deaths to mourn, hearts to balm, economies to re-build and whole social realities to re-invent. Meanwhile researchers seek a vaccine and treatments: covid isn’t done.
That’s one set of realities. Another equally real set of realities is that the covid crisis has aroused in society and in our own synagogue more resilience, resourcefulness and spiritual growth that maybe we thought possible. The more the challenge, seemingly the more the community steps up and digs deep to respond with our very best selves.
Spiritually speaking, these dual realities are flip sides of the same coin. They’re timed to this moment that perhaps most tests our endurance individually and collectively. And amazingly, they’re also timed to this exact week in our spiritual calendar that’s also about the flow of endurance and momentum in our lives.
In our seven-week Omer count from Passover to Shavuot, Jewish mysticism dedicates this fourth week to the spiritual valence of Netzach – endurance, momentum and life-affirming flow. Too much netzach and we insist on motion and movement for their own sake, even when they’re misdirected, too fast or unhealthy. Too little netzach and we get stuck or don’t follow through: we get bound to inertia or idealism without needed action.
And by spiritual “coincidence,” this week also is halfway in our seven-week Omer journey. At the very time that we approach halfway down the covid curve, we also are halfway on our spiritual curve from Passover to Shavuot – from “liberation” to “revelation.”
The timing is potent. It is the halfway “been there, done that” moment that most calls for our balance of netzach – our wise calibration of action and stasis, inside and outside, flow and restraint. Now is exactly when we must double down – physically and spiritually – so that this season of challenge also can prime the flow of greatest potential for us as a community and nation.
We’re halfway there. We’ll get the rest of the way together.
Past corona-themed spiritual messages from Rabbi David:
Week 2: The spirituality of melting down
Week 3: The liberation journey when so little feels like freedom
Week 4: How can we celebrate? How can’t we?
Week 5: Countdown to what’s next
Week 6: On spiritual resilience
Week 7: On Israel: Identity, Pride and “Exile”