This upcoming week we celebrate many graduations. The graduations of our eighth-grade students from Sinai Akiba Academy and Sinai Temple Religious School. The graduation of our own preschooler moving up towards kindergarten. Watching students say goodbye to teachers and friends bidding farewell for the summer. But in many ways, we’re all experiencing graduation: transitioning from the restrictions of pandemic life to a vastness that feels familiar and new at the very same time.
Upon seeing each other in person, I notice the polite refrain, “Can I give you hug?” Graduating from a pandemic means embracing with spirits filled with anticipation and a lot of relief. The hugs are longer, as if to say to the other person, “I find it miraculous to be in your presence. This was once taken away from us. I might need to hold on for a few more moments.” We now know what it means to be without; to receive the gift of touch is a blessing that feels sacred and rare.
Graduation does not mean forgetting. There is no forgetting the year that has transpired. Deaths and disappointment, joys experienced in isolation, the craving of another physical presence in unfathomable ways. Graduation is stepping into a new beginning, taking the accumulation of experiences as preparation and learning for what lies ahead. The greatest lessons in this graduation speech: there is no predicting what will happen tomorrow and so, I will thank God for the holy ability to embrace you today.
As said in Shir HaShirim, “His left arm lay under my head and His right arm embraces me.” (2:6) God understands the magic within a hug that offers love and security. May this graduation lead us towards ways in which we need to be held. And may we offer thanks for our ability to do so.