As the novelty of sheltering in place descends into a distant memory, and even tedium has become tedious, we lament the myriad social gatherings this pandemic has robbed from all of us, including many of our Jewish festivals. Because of this, it is important that we remember Judaism is not just a communal religion, but also has powerful personal rituals.
My own technique for retaining coherence at this time is adhering to a daily routine. By taking the things I need and want to do, and making them fit into a standard daily framework, I’ve kept myself from losing track of time and becoming disconnected from the outside world. This daily routine, in normal life, happens by matter of course -- regular work hours, classes at school, appointments, meetings, dates. But now, alone in quarantine, all that is gone and we must instead create and abide by our own schedules.
Yet we, as Jews, are not forced to construct this routine from scratch. Shabbat is immensely important, making us all familiar with the Jewish weekly routine. But most modern, Reform Jews -- myself included -- are only vaguely aware of the daily blessings and prayers of Judaism. Yet they are the very first thing in our congregation and movement’s prayerbook, the Mishkan T’Filah. The book is a carefully constructed emblem of our beliefs, and it doesn’t open with the holidays of even Shabbat. Instead, it begins with blessings for the evening, the morning, the afternoon, meals, leaving the house, illness, anxiety, courage, wonder -- the little moments that make up regular, ordinary days. This prominent placement should make us give extra consideration to the important of these ‘small,’ everyday blessings.
As each of us builds out our method of perseverance in the face of isolation, if you are struggling, I encourage you to use the tools given to use by centuries of Jewish practice. They will help you hold fast to gratitude, to groundedness, and to not taking for granted the blessings we do have. Wake up with Modeh Ani, sing Mah Tovu while preparing breakfast, recite the Sh’ma before going to bed, chant the Chatzi Kaddish before sleep. You will be using the same tools our ancestors used during the trials of their lives, tools which keep us connected to the world emotionally, spiritually, and physically.