Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:

As we contemplate the end of the 2020 tumultuous and restriction-filled year, we may be finding ourselves sighing with relief at the end of a very trying and, in some cases, a very difficult time in our lives. There is no question that our patience, resilience, and resolve have all been tested throughout this challenging time AND, we may be thinking to ourselves: “Good riddance to the year 2020. May you be replaced by a much more calm, peaceful, and enjoyable 2021!”

It occurred to me that the very notion of the manner by which we may have identified and referred to the secular year: 2020, “twenty-twenty,” may have brought with it a larger than welcome component of deceit and falsehood to our midst. When we think of the phrase: “twenty-twenty,” we are generally referring to one’s near-perfect vision. Someone blessed with 20-20 vision is thought of as having the blessing of the gift of sight without the need for any corrective lenses to assist that person.

At the outset of this year, 2020, we MAY HAVE THOUGHT that the year 2020 would have no reason to be anything but true to its name and expectation; to bring with it clear vision, perfect sight, the image of a year blessed with goodness and everything desirable and pleasant that we could possibly want, need, or desire for ourselves and our loved ones. How off target this turned out to be.

Families we know or heard of were stricken with the dreaded COVID-19 virus with varying degrees of its accompanying symptoms. The staggering number of deaths and the unfathomable count of individuals who had to fight for their lives was overwhelming. And if that were not enough, for the people who were fortunate to NOT have any loved ones afflicted directly by the virus, so many were plagued by the mere fact of the powerful isolation and prevalent lack of human touch or interaction that a general malaise was not uncommon by a majority of the masses.

Add to that the forced unemployment or mandated closing of businesses by local or state governments because of the COVID-19 restrictions which, if you were fortunate enough to NOT be affected health-wise by the pandemic, directly prevented so many from being able to maintain a livelihood or manner by which to support themselves.

And, perhaps similar to the Egyptians in Egypt who enslaved our ancestors thousands of years ago as they faced merciless plagues, one after another, suffering mightily at the hands of our avenging, all-powerful and all-knowing G-d in heaven, we too witnessed homes, shops, businesses, stores, and entire communities burned to the ground in often senseless demonstrations of violence, rioting, looting, arson, and social unrest.

Who could have imagined cities taken over by uncontrolled, lawless anarchists and whose destructive arms and means were permitted to move forward with their chaotic, mindless invasion of municipalities resulting in a imaged depiction of something closer to the banana republic toppling of Central and South American regimes of the 1960’s?

With all of this as a backdrop to the various and heartbreaking themes of the year 2020, we can only marvel at the revealed miracle from heaven, made possible by the kindness and compassion of a loving G-d, who helped direct the doctors, researchers, and scientists to several COVID-19 vaccines, appearing to be successful, safe, and effective in warding off the dreaded virus. We come to the end of this tragedy-filled year with a note of great hope and greater expectations for the NEXT year of 2021. Never mind that “20-20” typically defines clarity, perfection, and the notion of something good and not needing correction. For us as we usher in the new year of 2021, perhaps there can be a sizable point of education — of learning from mistakes, of working hard not to repeat the errors of judgment that marked so much of the year 2020.

As with the miracles associated with our ancestors leaving Egypt because of G-d’s “powerful hand and outstretched arm,” we too today, in this generation, benefitted from the Almighty’s interventions on our behalf, directing us with His wise counsel and permitting the brain trust of our time to work to find, discover, and make possible the response and solution to this most recent health menace and plague.

May we look inside ourselves to rouse our spirits in celebration and jubilation at the triumph we appear to be witnessing as G-d’s wonders and miracles prove to never end but to come to us by way of His blessing, as the mercy of the Lord endures forever.

We welcome the new secular year: 2021 with hope, prayer, expectation, and great humility as we raise our voices and turn our thoughts to Almighty G-d in heartfelt appreciation, thanks, and gratitude.

With Torah blessings always,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin