While our data-driven modern brains may be skeptical about miracles, our Jewish faith argues otherwise. As we approach Pesach, at CDS we are learning about the biblical miracles of Moses parting the Red Sea, the 10 Plagues, the redemption of our people from slavery in Exodus.
The Ramban, the great 13th-century Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, differentiates between miracles that are “obvious” and those that are hidden in everyday life. Ramban’s “hidden” miracles can be understood only by those who are open to seeing the wonder in all that happens around us and to not taking life for granted.
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the sudden, unexpected closing of our campus due to COVID-19. It has been a year of unprecedented challenges and layers of trauma. We mourn the death of too many beloved individuals from our Jewish community and worldwide and we pray for strength, courage, and healing for all those who are grieving or sick.
So in the midst of all this loss, why am I thinking about miracles?
What feels nothing short of an obvious miracle is that 100% of our CDS faculty and staff are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19, have a first dose of vaccine already, or have a vaccine appointment scheduled in the next few days.
With the continued uncertainty around the state allocation process once educators were moved to the 1A eligibility phase, a small team of “angels” on our staff took it upon themselves last weekend to spend their days and nights clicking endlessly on pharmacy websites to hunt for appointments for every colleague still in need.
That means that by the time we return to campus after Passover, every CDS employee will be fully vaccinated against the deadly virus that has broken our reality and radically transformed our world and lives forever. I know you share my pure joy in hearing this news.
I am thankful to the scientists, volunteers, and funders who made this miracle possible for humankind and to our government leaders for prioritizing the essential role of educators in our society. The feelings of gratitude, relief, and renewed hope throughout our building are palpable, as we begin to see light at the end of this dark and terrifying tunnel.
Which brings me to hidden miracles. How are we to honor the memories and legacies of the 2.6 million people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the span of just one year and the suffering of their loved ones? When faced with impossible questions like these, children often have the most clarity and wisdom in their answers.
I am humbled to share the words of CDS 7th grader Mollie Kaplan, who wrote this reflection published in this week’s Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh:
“COVID came at us when we least expected it. We were going to school/work, hanging out with friends and going shopping without a mask. Then, suddenly, masks became a trend and Zoom became popular. The teachers who had taught their whole careers in person had to learn how to adapt to the new guidelines. Instead of playing sports and hosting birthday parties, students spent their whole day at home … for months.
The thing is we did this. We adapted. Now pretty much everyone can start a Zoom meeting and learn geometry from their bedrooms. People have learned to not take simple things for granted anymore. We have learned that keeping close to our friends and family is more important than ever. We have learned that in the most devastating times, we can get through it.
Throughout everything, we have found ways to get by under even the most grueling circumstances. We have even found a way to make something beautiful out of something terrible. COVID may have taken away things we will never get back, but it has also given us things we will never lose."
“Finding a way to make something beautiful out of something terrible.” That’s a more perfect way of saying finding the hidden miracles.
It’s what we did when, under tremendous shock, we created and launched the CDS@home program a year ago this weekend. It’s what we did when we held a virtual social justice assembly when the Black Lives Matter protests were happening around the world. It’s what we did when we celebrated milestones with yard signs, Zoom graduation celebrations, car parades, and yes, more yard signs. It’s what we did when we designed the substantial rules that have allowed us to return to campus in these strange COVID times while trying to have school still feel like, well, school. It’s what our teachers did when they figured out how to simultaneously deliver a CDS education to students in their classroom and at home. It’s what we did when we reimagined the Middle School Science Fair. And the 1st Grade Siddur Ceremony. And our Purim carnival. And the 8th Grade vs. Faculty basketball game. And just about every small detail about daily school life and learning in between.
All the while, we’ve been guided by our need to provide consistency and connection for our children, to ensure they are safe, nurtured, and learning. For you. For each other. For our staff. And for the time after, when our community emerges from this crisis, and hopefully, always continues to find a way to make something beautiful out of the darkness in our world and to see the hidden miracles that surround us.
I repeat Mollie’s words, this time in prayer: “COVID may have taken away things we will never get back, but it has also given us things we will never lose.”
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,