I finally got it last December, a mild case. It was almost a relief, no more waiting to see where on the Wheel of Ill Fortune I might land. The Pandemic Era for me consisted of three years in a fever dream, time not really time and normal activities, like going to the store, pixelated and in saturated color.
It was awful, every moment.
My synagogue moved immediately to Zoom for services, now three times a day like the most traditional of congregations. I joined every one (because: what else was there to do?). I grew to love the little community of praying faces in squares, and the unique privilege of seeing, rather than backs of heads, the beauty of faces focused in prayer. (It was almost too intimate to watch; sometimes I turned away from the screen.) For months the only people I saw in actual person were the terrific barista down the block each morning for about a minute, a vital part of maintaining my sanity, and a friend that I walked with on Sundays along with her dog, always keeping a sensible few feet apart.
Since my synagogue straddles the border between progressive and traditional, we refrained on Zoom from the parts of the service that required a minyan. So Torah wasn’t chanted from a scroll during all those awful first months, just read from a chumash. I soon figured out a new Shabbat morning ritual for myself in the courtyard of my building, which is equipped with Adirondack chairs with and occasionally reliable WiFi. I’d get dressed in just a slightly fancier T-shirt than usual to mark the day and head downstairs with my laptop, siddur, and headphones. Through the gap between buildings I’d watch the sun dance around clouds as two rabbis and a hazzan prayed at each other, and the invisible rest of us, from opposite ends of a sanctuary that seats 800.
After nine months of this weirdness, our medical advisory board said it was safe to have a few more people in the sanctuary so that we could make a minyan and read from the actual sefer Torah. I volunteered. I missed chanting, and what else did I have to do, really?