I cried both times.
But not because it hurt. The City of Detroit is vaccinating clergy, so I got my second COVID-19 vaccine shot this week. And with both shots, the tears came.
The tears came because I recognize that it is a tremendous privilege to be able to get a vaccine and that there are people who will get very sick and people who will die before they can. There has been tremendous injustice in vaccine distribution. Detroit is vaccinating clergy so we can officiate at funerals. There are too many funerals yet to come.
The tears came because there have been far, far too many funerals already. And far too many people whose lives will never be the same after they lost people they love.
The tears came because it has been a year. A year since we closed the synagogue’s doors. A year since the doors of schools and businesses and homes were closed. Some doors were able to reopen, some may reopen this summer, some never will.
And the tears came because, as my children like to tell me, I often cry when I am happy. I am in awe of the fact that there is a vaccine at all. I am so grateful to the scientists and doctors and nurses and volunteers who were able to develop a vaccine faster than ever before. And to all of the people involved in its production, shipping, and distribution. Every one of the medical team members and volunteers at the TCF Center were warm and positive. On their feet all day, and thrilled to be saving lives. I felt more hope and gratitude than I could ever express.
This week’s Torah portion, which we read last year shortly after we moved online, begins with Moses assembling the people. We spoke then about what it means to try to assemble people in the midst of a crisis.
We now know how amazing human beings can be when we do. We have come together in ways that were unimaginable a year ago and we will continue to do so. And by the end of May there will be enough vaccines for every adult. By the summer we may be able to hug one another. We will embrace one another in consolation, and also, finally, in relief and in joy.
And when we do, the tears will come again.
Rabbi Ariana Silverman is the rabbi at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.