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New Year, New Beginnings and the Vaccine

By: Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC
Wilf Campus Director of Religious and Spiritual Services

man receiving vaccine

Wilf Campus Director of Religious and Spiritual Services, Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Monday, I joined the ranks of colleagues near and far as I went to get the first vaccine dose to combat COVID-19.  I found myself filled with multiple emotions.  I felt a momentary weight come off my shoulders, a sense of relief.  I felt gratitude to all who have been working tirelessly to get us to this moment.  At the same time, I felt a sadness in considering that the vaccine, while important in the fight, is in many ways just one more step on a long road that we continue to travel.  As I write today, I have another perspective that I want to share.

Whenever we reach a milestone moment and date in the year, it is in our nature to pause and take stock.  Whether it’s a birthday, a holiday, a New year, many of us hit the pause button, reflect on where we were and where we want to go and hope to start fresh.  Unfortunately, time and time again, it is extremely difficult to break the habits of the past and find a true new beginning.  Yet, it is still a new beginning and new opportunity, and deep down we know it and feel it to be.

The start of 2021 can seem not much different than the end of 2020.  We are in the middle of a surge in COVID cases and things seem a long way to the finish line.  Yet, in the moment, most of us found a way to celebrate and more importantly a time to reflect and to hope for brighter days ahead.  Brighter days come through taking single steps, not giant leaps

In the Jewish tradition, there is a blessing that is recited at the start of each Jewish holiday as well as when we procure a new item or taste something new for the first time.  The tradition is to recite a blessing, Shecheyanu:

hebrew textBlessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

We recite this blessing as an acknowledgement of having reached the milestone moment.  The blessing is a message of gratitude for arriving at this juncture and is a prayer of hope that the moment with be an auspicious one going forward.  We cannot know the future and might not have always experienced the past in a positive way, but in the present we have hope.

My hope for us all is best summed up in the words of my colleague Rev. J Susan Gunther, Chaplain and Bereavement Services Coordinator for Stein Hospice.  Rev. Gunther has been sending out inspirational emails throughout this pandemic and ends each with a single phrase, “One Less Day!”  May we all feel the sense of “One Less Day,” and find gratitude for each and every day, recognizing that each opportunity, each moment forward is one to cherish and appreciate.

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