On Shavuot, I'm Rewriting My Commandments for Post-Pandemic Life
In past years, seasons changed, and our daily lives adjusted seamlessly. As the days got warmer, we swapped blue jeans for white pants. We remembered to take Claritin and ventured to the grocery store for newly in-season fruits, like mangos. But this year, the changes of springtime are different. After an extended period of obligatory introversion, many of us are vaccinated and ready to reemerge from our Covid cocoons. These changes come right in time for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, the commemoration of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. While in past years, this event—a prophet receiving divine tablets—felt like a distant fiction to me, in 2021, the opportunity to reevaluate my own “commandments” for a meaningful life actually makes sense.
To celebrate Shavuot, we study Torah. We attempt to make meaning out of ancient pages because, while the text is set in stone, our stories are always changing. Our blueprints are fluid, and what we take from tradition is rarely stagnant. We revisit Torah with fresh perspectives each year, and can lean on its teaching to reevaluate the kind of people we want to be. The commandments advise us not to kill and not to take things that aren’t ours—the usual—but we must go beyond the blatant text and start implementing the power of history into our future. Shavuot is a holiday commemorating a significant change, a new path for the Jewish people. What will our paths look like in the coming weeks and months as we venture back into the world?
When I look back to last March, I feel foolish for thinking I would return to my office desk two weeks later. The past year and a half has been the longest two weeks of our lives. In some ways, Covid was initially a welcome change from my normal routine, a reason to get away from the daily grind, not a deadly thing that would leave society forever changed. After more than a year away from the person I used to be, a new version of myself is here. All this time, I’ve been aching for my life back, while I marvel at our collective ability to adapt. With a return to “normal” life around the corner, I’m starting to think we can’t ever really go back. I don’t think that would even make us happy anymore.
Throughout history, plagues and disasters have halted and changed human lives and the course of history. In 2020 we had multiple such events, but come Shavuot, we have the opportunity to learn from this past year, act differently in the future, and create a new code to live by.
Prior to Covid, my days were packed with activities, and my schedule, full. I was constantly challenging myself to work more hours, see more friends, eat at more restaurants, attend more concerts… the list goes on. Being busy was my natural state, and without that rush during the pandemic, I have had a lot to reevaluate. I started a job virtually, connected with friends and family on the phone instead of in person, learned how to cook, and am actually using my record player. The pace of my life has changed, and I’ve settled into a slower, healthier, and more productive routine. I have to strike a meaningful balance moving forward, reintroducing the things about pre-pandemic life that I missed most, without sacrificing what I’ve learned. Stepping into society again means recognizing what we’ve been through and accepting the privilege of return along with new possibilities for leading more intentional lives.
We can’t shrug off the plague, and if we want to move forward, we must agree to do so under new commandments. With everything that happened between last spring and this one—a deadly virus, police killings, an election, an insurrection, and an inauguration—we’re overdue for renewal. But this isn’t a year to forget. It’s one to remember, with humility.
After quarantining for the safety of loved ones and strangers alike, how can we exhibit selflessness in our day to day moving forward? After all of the lives lost, how can we navigate our tenderness and fragility with compassion? After missing our social lives for a year and a half, how can we prioritize who we give our energy to? After an extended period of moving slowly, how can we bring patience and relaxation into our lives as they begin to speed up again?
Hold on to your favorite experiences from your old life, and rejuvenate them with the lessons you’ve learned from the past year. Call your grandma. Tell her story. Say hello to the person in line with you. Take five minutes to walk outside every day. Consider how the commandments of your life have shifted. Look at what you have survived and all that you have accomplished in amazement, and bring more meaning to your new normal.
Wishing you a healthy and meaningful Shavuot.
How to cite this page
Pinkus, Dani. "On Shavuot, I'm Rewriting My Commandments for Post-Pandemic Life." 13 May 2021. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 22, 2021) <https://jwa.org/blog/shavuot-im-rewriting-my-commandments-post-pandemic-life>.