Friday, October 15, 2021

Sheh'hecheyanu Moments


I’ve been enjoying sheh’hecheyanu moments more consciously over the last couple of weeks - those “first time since COVID” moments that simply invite gratitude and blessing.

The first time  since the beginning of the pandemic that our small family gathered for dinner indoors around our dining room table; the first time in a year and a half, walking into our beloved neighbor’s home vaccinated and unmasked, for a few shared moments over tea; the joyful reunion of our Torah study group, resuming our weekly pot-luck supper and sacred conversation.

Until we “lost it”  I had always taken for granted the central role that “table fellowship” has always played in the well-being of our lives - - the simple act of eating together  with others and conversing around a common table.  ZOOM has filled the gaps in many ways, keeping us connected with family and friends while it seemed so unsafe to gather together in person. I thought we coped pretty well with life on the small screen.  But the joy I felt as I welcomed real live human beings in real time into our kitchen made the  ZOOM connections feel pale by comparison.

ZOOM kept us well connected with our various faith communities - Shabbat services on Friday evening and Saturday morning, Sunday morning worship, Buddhist meditation on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.  We did not lack for sustaining, nourishing spiritual connection.

But then there was the first Friday evening beach service - - in person!  And then the first Shabbat morning service in the synagogue - in person!  The first time we entered the church sanctuary on a Sunday morning -masked, vaccinated, socially distanced - - in person!

With each encounter there were the slight hesitancies.  Mask?  No mask?  Hugs?  No hugs?  Fist bumps? Elbow bumps?  Hip bumps? Handshakes?  Each encounter a “first time” event to be joyfully (and carefully) celebrated with gratitude.

So a pronounced sense of joy and gratitude blossoms with each renewed connection as we learn to navigate on the big open screen of life again.

“Coming out” of the most intense time of the pandemic is a slow and tender process.  We are still all at very different comfort levels regarding masking, social distancing, vaccinating, touching…
Each encounter brings an opportunity for gracious loving respect of one another as we find our way through  these tenuous “re-openings” in our lives.

Until I lost it, I did not know or recognize the depth of soul connection that happens around shared food and fellowship.  I began to understand in an ever more real way the meaning and centrality of table fellowship in the portrayals of Jesus in the gospels.  I feel a different connection with the meaning of the sharing of food with the multitudes, with the “dinner at home” scenario in the home of Mary and Martha, with Jesus at dinner with a despised tax collector, with the 12 gathered together for a final meal with their Beloved Teacher.

Then of course there is the soul connection that happens during Kiddush following Shabbat services as we harmonize in blessing the Holy One who brings forth bread and the fruit of the vine.  The ritual gets translated into Christian terms on the first Sunday of each month in our congregation - and the richness of communion, table fellowship, in person, draws us together in new ways, deeper in meaning than was even possible pre-COVID.

So many “first time” moments as we measure time from the beginning of the pandemic.

So it is appropriate to bless these moments, even moment to moment, as we celebrate each familiar experience new, for the first time, with joy and gratitude.

Sheh’hecheyanu - - a brakha or blessing for celebrating the first time in the cycle of a year or in one’s life that a special event occurs.  This blessing helps us to feel deep gratitude and to  celebrate new experiences.  Indeed, each moment of “coming out” of the worst of the pandemic is an invitation to bless the Source of Life: Baruch atah adonai, eloheynu melech ha’olam, sheh’hecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higiyanu la’zman ha’zeh.   Blessed are you, Sovereign of all the Worlds, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time.  

Vicky Hanjian

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