January 7, 2021


1.8.2021 Weekly Torah Portion

I received some exciting news this past Sunday.  After a phone call with my parents, in which we all lamented the ongoing sameness of pandemic life, I received an email saying that I was eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  The State of California had adjusted their guidelines so that workers in residential Substance Use Disorder facilities were now in Phase 1, Tier 1 priority.  A few minutes later I was registering for an appointment and moments after that I was confirmed to receive my first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine the very next day.

Now, I am no huge fan of receiving shots.  Truth be told, I don’t even always like going to the doctor.  But when given the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I acted without delay – and even with enthusiasm.  I felt it was my chance to contribute to solving this global problem we all face.  I thought of the photos I had seen in the news of our President-Elect and sitting Vice President receiving the vaccine, and on social media of my friends and family in Israel and in the US receiving the vaccine, and their leadership gave me courage.  When I arrived at the vaccine clinic on Monday the staff made me feel at ease, and the injection itself felt like almost nothing at all.  As I write this a couple days later, my arm still a bit tender, I look forward to my second appointment with hope and courage.

We learn from this week’s parashah that – even for our heroes – it isn’t always easy to meet a challenge willingly, to take an opportunity with courage and enthusiasm.  God speaks to Moses, telling him that he has been chosen to act on God’s behalf and lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, away from slavery and oppression, and into a land flowing with milk and honey.  Moses does not respond by saying “Wow!” or “Thank you!”  Instead, Moses says, “Why me?”  Granted, his reaction is not an outright refusal, yet it is still far from enthusiastic acceptance.

In this moment, Moses’ response is utterly human and completely understandable.  Change, of any sort, is difficult!  At the beginning of the pandemic, when we were told to change our daily rhythm of life, we responded by freaking out, clearing the Trader Joe’s shelves of pretty much everything and buying up all the toilet paper in existence.  And we know as a community of recovery that it can be so, so difficult to make the change from a lifestyle of active addiction to sustained sobriety and recovery.

In the moments when we are called to change, when life demands of us that we do something different than we’ve ever done before, how can we rise to the occasion?  For Moses in our parashah, for me receiving a vaccine, and for so many coming into recovery, receiving guidance and support from others makes all the difference.

Moses goes back and forth with God, bringing one question and objection after the next.  The exchange concludes when Moses says that he is incapable of speaking to the Jewish people because he is slow of speech, and God responds by saying that Moses’ brother Aaron would join Moses in this mission and help with the task of speaking.  After this, Moses’ objections cease, and he begins to take on the task of leading the Jewish people.

For me this week, as I prepared to receive the vaccine, I certainly had moments of fearing the unknown.  Would it hurt?  Would it work?  What will it be like?  I am grateful to our leaders and to my friends and family that shared their stories of receiving the vaccine, because without them, I would have struggled much more to find courage and feel at ease.

And all of us entering recovery, who joined our first in-person or Zoom twelve-step meeting despite confusion and reluctance threatening to dampen our desperation for change; all of us who have felt the deep connection of hearing a stranger’s story in a meeting and been able to relate to them so completely – we all know the power of receiving support from our fellowship, from our friends in recovery, and of course from our Beit T’Shuvah community, our family of misfits where we have all been able to finally find a place to belong.

As we move together towards Shabbat

– as we move through this pandemic –

I invite us to remember

the courage we can feel when we hear each other’s stories,

and the courage we can inspire when we share our experience, strength, and hope.

May we reach out to our friends, family, and community

and may our connection keep us on the path of recovery.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Miriam