I live in a neighborhood in the beautiful hills of Jerusalem. It’s full of people walking on the streets, going here and there. You see children riding bicycles, and the parks are almost always full of people running, playing, sitting. There’s action. There’s life.

Due to the coronavirus, our neighborhood is on lockdown, empty.

No children are in the street, no one isIt’s quiet. It’s empty. It’s eerie. strolling. The parks are blocked off; all stores, except for supermarkets, are closed. It’s quiet. It’s empty. It’s eerie. It’s so sad, and I know it’s not just us. It’s the current state of the world.

There is another detail about our neighborhood—it’s a mixture of so many different types of people. Young people, older people. Couples with babies, and families of six, eight, 10 children. There are grandparents and great-grandparents living alone in empty apartments and singles that live together. We have families from France and from Argentina, from South Africa and England. Americans, and, of course, Israelis. In my building alone live Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Chassidim. My husband is from Mexico; I am from the United States. You get the picture. It’s a collage—a quilt of many nations and customs.

When we left Egypt, we crossed the sea as one nation, but there were 12 separate tribes walking in 12 different groups. When we finally reached Mount Sinai, something happened. Something huge.

The Torah describes that when Israel arrived by Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, they were “one.” It is written in the singular, not the plural. Rashi comments on the singular form of the verb “they encamped” in that it means that we were “as one man with one heart” (Exodus 19:2). We were ready to receive the Torah only when we were one, when there was unity.

In Hebrew, the numerical value of echad, the number “1,” is the same as the numerical value of ahavah, “love.” Each word equals 13. Add 13 and 13, and the sum is 26—the numerical value of the Tetragrammaton, the holiest name of G‑d.

That reminds me of my neighborhood. Each family has its own customs and wonderful ways of doing things. Usually on Passover, you really see the differences. But this past holiday was different.

One woman in my neighborhood had an idea, which I later heard happened in many communities around Israel. She wanted to give love and support to all the people who would normally be surrounded by children, grandchildren, friends and family, but who would be spending Passover completely alone. She posted on our community groups that at 8:30 p.m. on the night of the seder, all the neighborhood children would sing “Mah Nishtanah” in union.

And then it happened; kids stood on their balconies and sang together. It was so sweet and so beautiful. I looked up at the balcony above me as I stood together with my husband and singing children, and saw a couple—grandparents, as well as their father, a great-grandfather—smiling down below me.

Usually on Passover, this apartment is filled to the brim with their relatives, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. But this year they stood on their balcony alone.

And yet, they weren’t! They were smiling as they listened to all the children singing in unison—one Jewish song.

It was magical. I felt so much unity, so much love. We have all gone through so much, and at last, I understood something important.



Right now, we are counting the Omer, counting the days until the holiday of Shavuot, when we will receive the Torah. Why do we count, and why do we count upwards (today is day one, day two, etc.) and not count down (10 days left, nine days and so on)?

Maybe the answer has to do with what is going on right now. Maybe we have to pass through these days by making an effort to work on being together, being as one.

There are so manyAm I using it wisely? things about our current situation that I don’t understand. But one thing that I do see is how this test—and how every test—has tremendous potential to bring people closer and closer together in ways that I could never have imagined.

So I ask myself, “Am I making every day count?” Am I using this time to get closer to my family? Am I using it wisely? Am I reaching out on the phone to that neighbor who I always used to see in passing, but never had time to say hello? Am I reaching out and making my time count?

Because all these small things are not separate acts; they add up. But really, they add up to one: to us being one nation in unity and love.

We left Egypt as 12 separate tribes, and only through 49 days of working and growing together were we able to arrive at a place where we encamped as one. When there is one and there is love, we feel G‑d’s presence.

I pray that with G‑d’s help, we get through this together. I believe in us. I believe in us as one.