Shehekheyanu: Bringing Us to this Day in the Age of COVID

My younger son’s bar mitzvah was scheduled for June of 2020. My sister and family were planning to fly to us in Portland, Oregon, from Brazil, bringing my 86-year-old mother, whose excitement erased all the physical challenges the trip would entail.

As I did with my oldest son’s bar mitzvah, invitations were sent far and wide to childhood friends and extended family abroad, knowing that they would not be able to make it and celebrate in person with us, as it happened in every milestone in my thirty years living in the US: my wedding, the brit milah of both of my boys, graduations from kindergarten, middle school, all the Jewish holidays, etc. The sentiment was that they would be there in spirit.

Instead, the bar mitzvah happened in our living through Zoom, with a beautiful service performed by our synagogue and rabbi, and the presence of most of our friends and extended family, near and far, reading Torah, performing aliyot, and warming our hearts from their own living rooms in Brazil, Israel and the US. All together for the first time. Portuguese, English and Hebrew, all spoken simultaneously, exclamations of surprise every time a distant relative or friend popped in a square. An unforgettable silver lining.

One of our traditions, started by my sister, is to sing the Shehekheyanu together on our kids’ bnei mitzvot. One of the Zoom limitations is that we can’t sing together as a congregation, one of the most transporting aspects of Judaism.

So here is our Shehekheyanu, a labor of love and warmth, with my 86-year-old mother at the center, my sister and I, a cantor friend and collaborator, and dear friends from a lifetime, who have contributed to keeping us alive, sustaining us and bringing us to this day. My heart was full every time a single voice arrived at my inbox, and when the voices were joined together, they created a sustaining warmth, that is still carrying us today.

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