Having just read the 10 Commandments in last week’s Torah portion, as we continue to read of the revelation at Sinai and the handing down of the mitzvot to Moses in this week’s reading as well, I’ve come to the realization that I am in direct violation of the 10th Commandment.
As a reminder: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house: you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:14)
In my case, I’m not coveting my neighbor’s property or family. I’m coveting their vaccine.
As the vaccine is now slowly being rolled out, we have reached another stage of the pandemic. We have reached the stage that we may truly begin to imagine what life may look like after the pandemic. Things won’t return to what they were, but some of the activities we have missed, especially gathering in person, may return soon. It is incredible to think that we are nearly at the one year anniversary of the pandemic, having shut everything down a year ago March.
Now, as the vaccine administration continues, I see people posting selfies of rolled up sleeves, or band-aids on arms, or verification cards, accompanied by written posts expressing relief, and joy, and appreciation.
Now I don’t disparage those health care workers, or seniors, getting the vaccine especially those I know or who are in our congregation (or my family). It’s looking out across social media to see friends and colleagues–other clergy mostly–getting their shots in states that have different rules than my own, states that elevate clergy to earlier phases of vaccine administration, that touches my coveting nerve.
I can not argue with decisions other states have made, and if a vaccine is offered, one should most definitely take it. (I would.) And at the same time I don’t disagree with the decisions of the State of Washington and I am comfortable with my place in line, as someone who is younger, who does not work in an essential position (I don’t think clergy are “essential” in that way), who does not have other conditions that would make me more vulnerable. Indeed, because of these I would prefer that others get the vaccine before me, not only those more vulnerable by age or health, or who are working on the front lines as health care workers or in food service, etc., but also those for whom it is more difficult to take the precautions of isolating and social distancing, such as our homeless neighbors, or those incarcerated.
And yet, watching others get the vaccine, while I’m genuinely happy for them, I am envious. I want to feel that same feeling of relief and joy and appreciation. I want this to be over. While I have experienced blessing during this time of isolation and slowing down, oftentimes it is exhausting doing everything one needs to do to avoid Covid. I want to see faces and hug. Mostly I want the anxiety of this virus to end. Knowing we are nearing the end ironically makes me feel more anxious at times.
And I say this knowing that this is how we all feel. We are in this together, and sharing our understandings and our feelings is an important step to supporting one another during this most difficult time.
I hope that the systems for vaccine distribution will begin to normalize and be less of a competition and burden. I hope that everyone can wait their turn without jumping the line through misrepresentation. I hope that vulnerable populations–and then everyone–will get vaccinated fast. I hope that we can all stay safe and healthy and continue to care for one another.
Until then, I will dutifully wait. And I will continue to covet and violate the 10th Commandment. If you want to do the same, that’s OK by this rabbi.