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  • Writer's pictureZack Bodner

Elu V'Elu. Embrace this and that.

I’m spending a few weeks with my family driving cross-country for our summer break. On a trip like this, the juxtaposition of life in America paints its starkest images. And if we are open to it, it forces us to embrace the Jewish value of “Elu v’Elu” - meaning both this and that can be true at the same time.

For instance, through states like Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota, COVID seems to be an afterthought as very few people mask-up and states pass laws that prohibit employers from requiring vaccines of their employees – including hospitals. Tourist destinations like Mt. Rushmore overflow with visitors while you can count one hand the number of guests wearing masks. Meanwhile, in cities like La Crosse, Wisconsin, employees in coffee shops and hotels are masked-up behind sneeze guards, while in Chicago, fancy restaurants make you declare you’re vaccinated and take your temperature upon entry.

We also saw the intense wealth disparity through America’s heartland. On the Native American Reservations, for example, poverty was ever-present with the majority of people living in trailers with their yards littered by automobile carcasses, while in major cities like Jackson, Wyoming, the entry-level home price was over $1 million.

As I experience this yin and yang of America, I’m not surprised by how divided we were as a country during the worst days of COVID. Some of us lost jobs and family to the disease, and many lost our ability to live a normal life as we took draconian measures to protect ourselves. Others claim they lived their best lives during this past year, continuing to travel, learning new skills, and enjoying the “down time” as they didn’t need to travel for their work anymore.

As I experience these two realities, I think about how it really can be “the best of times and the worst of times” simultaneously. So rather than be resentful of the other, we should strive to hold both these truths together in our hands at the same time, Elu V’Elu.

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