The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected almost every aspect of our daily lives. I suspected the same would happen for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish holiday celebrating the new year in the Hebrew calendar. However, despite some noticeable changes, the spirit of the holiday was not diminished. Yes, those changes did have an effect on the holiday, but it was still a joyful experience.
Normally on the holiday my family and I would have dinner with my grandma, eating the traditional foods for the holiday. However, in order to be able to do so this year, we had to set up a canopy outside and eat out there. While this wasn’t super convenient, it was still worthwhile and enjoyable.
Another main theme of the holiday is the synagogue services, which are normally filled with songs and the blowing of the shofar, which is a hollowed out ram’s horn we blow to signify the new year. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, our synagogue held services in a large tent set up in the parking lot, and the prayers were altered to include less singing to limit the opportunities for viral pathogens to be released into the air. The shofar blasts were also limited to just above the minimum blasts required by Jewish law.
The songs during the services were always something I looked forward to on Rosh Hashanah because they brought me joy and nostalgia, so it was difficult not having those in the service. However, I realized how fortunate I am to even be able to go to synagogue, as some who are in the high risk category for COVID-19 could not attend. Furthermore, even though the services lacked some of the songs, there was still a lot of passion coming from the service leaders. Despite the modifications to the services, the spirit of the holiday was still there.
Rosh Hashanah is just another one of the countless events and holidays that have been modified due to COVID-19. It is a reminder to all of us that first and foremost we have to be safe and smart, but also we don’t have to let the pandemic control us. What I learned from this whole experience is that while our lives right now may not be ideal, it could be a whole lot worse, and we should take every opportunity we get to have some sort of normalcy in our lives.