How does one start to summarize a year like 2020? A year in which so much was beyond our control. A year of re-learning, re-inventing, re-calculating, re-living. At the end of every year, Google publishes the most searched words of the last 12 months. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to find out that this year, the most searched word was “Coronavirus.”
One of the positives of this year’s vicissitudes was the use of Zoom. It brought people together in a new way. It also gave birth to a new locution: “You’re muted…!” Anyone who used Zoom this year, which is pretty much everyone, has heard those words a lot. What started as a minor annoyance quickly became an amusing mantra. “You’re muted…You’re muted…!”
I find this to be one of the most fascinating phenomena of this year. It was a year we learned to mute ourselves and to let other people speak. It taught us to be silent, to wait our turn, and not take for granted that we can speak and be heard instantaneously. What Robert’s Rules of Order couldn’t do since 1876, Zoom did in one year. A social experiment in finding our voice. Perhaps this is the ultimate message that God is waiting for us to internalize — that our voice is not ours alone, but part of a shared conversation.
In Parashat Miketz, which we always read during Hanukkah, Joseph’s lot changes in an instant from the depths to the heights (from Bira Amikta L’igra Rama). In one day, he is hurled from jail to becoming the viceroy of Egypt, from incarceration to beyond imagination. But in between, when Pharaoh was expecting to hear Joseph’s solution to his dreams, Joseph used the key word — Bil’aday — without me. He was telling Pharaoh that his voice was really God’s voice. And just like the story of Hanukkah, in one quick act, the light shines through again.
We are not muted as long as we can keep telling our story together. More importantly, to make the story, continue to create the story. We did it during worse times. Even if we think we’re muted, God continues to hear.
The Talmud tells us that when we go up to heaven, one of the first questions we will be asked is whether we were sincerely hopeful in our lives, whether we sincerely expected to be saved and redeemed at any moment. Because only then can we experience the swift hand of God. It may not come for a while, but when it’s time, it will be quick, as though waking up from a dream. When we mute ourselves for a minute, we let God’s voice come through.
With hopes for complete healing in 2021,
—Rabbi Gadi Capela