Tuesday, January 26th | 13 Shevat 5781

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December 10, 2020 6:15 am

Our Worst Year Ends in a Hanukkah Miracle

avatar by David Suissa / JNS.org

Opinion

Trial kits for Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination study are seen at the Research Centers of America, in Hollywood, Florida, Sept. 24, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Marco Bello.

JNS.orgThe COVID-19 vaccine is on its way. Instead of waiting years and years, as we normally do with vaccines, we waited eight months. Can you believe it? It’s a modern twist on the ancient Hanukkah miracle when oil for one night lasted for eight. Here, scientists burned the midnight oil for eight long months to bring us a vaccine that will rescue a suffering world.

I can’t say I saw this coming so fast. I’ve been writing all year about 2020 as a year of astonishing challenges and dark news. I figured we’d end the year with one final blast of darkness. The latest spike in coronavirus cases, what we call “the dark winter,” surely qualified.

But in a stunning turnaround, a ray of healing light snuck in at the very end of 2020 to shuffle the script. How can we not love that ending — or should I say new beginning?

I think of those thousands of scientists slogging in their labs for months with the weight of the world on their shoulders. They had to balance maddening urgency with perfect accuracy. From what I gather, they brought in the big guns — a technology called mRNA —  that would shorten the time of development. Evidently, it worked. Countries are lining up to get their supply.

We’ve had many heroes in 2020, from frontline workers to humanitarian activists to philanthropists who stepped up to mitigate losses. I want to add the silent “heroes of the laboratories” who strained their eyes on charts and high-powered microscopes to figure out how to outsmart a nasty virus.

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It’s been a dizzying year. Our minds have been reeling from the devastation. We’ve struggled all year to find silver linings, but this vaccine is not a silver lining. It’s pure, shining gold. How will we handle such blindingly good news?

First, let’s not spoil this last mile by getting complacent. We’ve been cautious for so long; we ought not to let our guards down. We’re quarantine-exhausted, Zoom-exhausted, isolation-exhausted. But soon enough, the vaccine will reach all of us.

For those who have lost loved ones, it’ll be too late. A vaccine cannot bring those lives back. For those who have lost their livelihoods, a vaccine will not be enough. Businesses that have been decimated by the lockdown and were forced to close won’t be saved by a vaccine. Financial insecurity will remain.

Indeed, some damage may be permanent. Old habits may die hard, but what about new habits? How “sticky” will the new habits of 2020 prove to be? How many people will continue to pray, shop, and watch movies exclusively online, while spending more time in nature? How strong will be the pull to reconnect with people?

For those who can afford it, they will return to consumption with a vengeance. More travel, more in-person shopping, more dining in restaurants, more investments. Business owners, and our economy, will be grateful for their vengeance.

I hope there won’t be too many people who refuse to be vaccinated, but for those in that camp, the risk will be theirs. I also hope we will all be patient. Frontline health workers and high-risk people must come first. There’ll be enough for everyone, just like the routine flu shot.

It may take many more long months, but I’m looking forward to seeing the post-vaccine world with wide-open eyes, like a kid unwrapping a new toy. In the meantime, let’s take a moment to appreciate that in this crazy, impossible year, everyone on the planet got the same Hanukkah gift.

David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and the Jewish Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]

This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.

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