Finding Meaning in Challenging Times

Posted on April 7, 2020 by Leigh Miller

The last three weeks have been as challenging as any in my recent memory, and I suspect this statement is true for each and every one of us. And while it is easy (especially for me) to focus on the things that are not-so-great at the moment, I think it is also an opportunity to take stock of the blessings in our lives and the positive things that we can take away from our current circumstances.

For instance, normally I spend my days running through airports, driving back and forth to New York City or spending the day in meetings in windowless conference rooms. But on a recent day, I had the opportunity to take a two-hour walk throughout my neighborhood on a truly glorious afternoon. I saw people fishing in a stream near our house, I saw families sitting in lawn chairs, talking with neighbors and watching their kids playing in the street (all practicing proper social distancing, of course). And most people driving in cars or riding bikes past me were even considerate enough to give a little wave hello.

My family recently experienced the loss of a loved one —but we’ve also been able to share that loss with our friends, family and temple community in unexpectedly comforting ways. Because of the blessing of technology our community is using for the first time, we were able to share all five of our evening shiva minyans with between 50 and 100 family, friends and temple community members who took the time to join us, and feel grateful that so many that were able to participate that would normally not have been able to do so.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have our children at home with us (they really aren’t children any longer). But it is certainly comforting for the four of us to be together and navigate what has suddenly become a topsy-turvy world. And we are about to welcome a new member to our family. A puppy is joining our household, because why not have a meaningful distraction at a time when we can all be together, share the responsibilities and bring something positive to the family during these unprecedented times?

And finally, it is a blessing that we are able to come together as a community each Shabbat using that same new technology, which was not available even a few years ago. For me, Shabbat has always been a ritual more than anything else. Come to synagogue, say the prayers, sing along with the cantor, talk with friends, eat a little nosh and then go home. But in the challenges and difficulties of the last few weeks, I have come to discover my personal true meaning of Shabbat — and will try to remember this period of discovery and hope that I will continue to always embrace this time of the week.

While I suspect there will be more difficult days ahead of us than there have been behind us, one of the few certainties we can count on is our temple clergy, professional staff, temple leadership and temple community to be there for all of us. I have learned that lesson over and over again in the last nine months and most of all, with all of your kindness and support of my family, I have learned it all over again in recent days.

Please be assured that while we are still figuring out how to navigate this new dynamic world, with distance learning, Zoom religious services and limited access to friends and loved ones, Temple Beth-El is working hard to stay connected and wants to be part of the solution, as we keep our lives together and meet the personal challenges that we face.

Leigh Miller

Originally published in the April 2020 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.