As we emerge from our COVID stupor, there are a wide array of emotions on display. The Cherry Creek Mall is packed and feels positively frenetic with activity. Walk inside a restaurant and you catch the giddy joy that comes with socializing in public again. And yet when I talk to people about our collective reemergence, I hear words like fear and apprehension. In a recent group discussion, the word scared came up a number of times. When I asked what exactly people are scared about, some said they’re afraid of the unknown. Will the virus morph into a more dangerous variant? Is it really safe out there? Others said they were scared of the changes COVID has wrought and the changes yet to come as we enter this new phase.
This week’s Torah portion also deals with the unknown. In Korach, the Israelites are just a few steps into what will be a journey of forty years when Korach, Dothan, and Aviram begin asking questions. For what reason is Moses leading us from a land of milk and honey just to kill us in the desert, ask Dothan and Aviram. Though they were slaves, Korach, Dothan, and Aviram were well off in Egypt; they and all of Israel had become accustomed to their life there, for better or for worse. But now there is change. There is freedom, yes, but there is wandering, and the destination is unknown—even unimaginable. And out of the fear and doubt that comes with any transition, a rebellion is born.
It is so often the case that, after periods of loss or change, we don’t exactly heal: we adapt. We may regress a bit, but in the end, we grow. In time, the new becomes the old, the future becomes the present, and, despite our fears, we find that we are resilient. And, if we trust in ourselves and in our innate adaptability, we are empowered to move forward into whatever lies ahead of us.
For 90 local teenagers, what lies ahead is the 50th annual Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour. Yesterday, I was at the airport to see off the first cohort, the first young adult tour group to return to Israel since the pandemic travel restrictions were imposed. They have landed in, well… the Land of Milk and Honey, after wondering (but not wandering) for many, many months. We applaud their resiliency and their adaptability. We applaud their families’ patience and flexibility. And we wish them a joyous and thrilling and meaningful stay in Israel.
May they and may we all grow and thrive this summer as we enter this next chapter of our collective story.