A few random thoughts about the past few days, which, to say the least, have been strange. For the first time in my adult life, I couldn't spend the Day of Atonement in synagogue, since the pandemic made going to temple impossible. So, my husband and I found a live-stream of a synagogue in Miami, and another in New York, and we vicariously joined those congregations to observe the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar. But even though the services were beautifully done, and very moving, I still felt like a spectator, rather than a participant.
We humans are creatures of habit, and there are some rituals we become accustomed to. I am grateful that services were online, but I miss being able to actually attend. (I admit to feeling the same way about teaching my classes: I'm grateful I can engage with my students, but while it's nice to be able to see them on Zoom, I still miss bringing them cookies and I wish I could still walk around the room to say hi and see how they are doing.)
On the other hand, there are some rituals and customs that remain, even during a pandemic. As I do every year on Yom Kippur, I go on a media fast. In addition to the 24 hours of refraining from food, I refrain from email and social media. It's nice to spend a period of time not worrying about which messages need to be answered or which partisans are arguing with each other. So, I spent the time reading some scripture, reading some philosophy, and thinking about the importance of forgiveness-- forgiving others who have wronged us, and forgiving ourselves when we fall short of the goals we've set for ourselves. (I could probably do better at both, to be honest.)
Last night, I watched the presidential debate, and it made my head hurt. I've watched many such debates, but I can't remember one where the sitting president relentlessly interrupted, mocked the moderator, mocked his opponent, used numerous insults, and persisted in making assertions that were demonstrably false. And yes, his opponent fell into name-calling too, and that didn't make me happy either. I'm just not accustomed to so much rudeness from our leaders, in a time when serious problems demand our attention. And I thought back at other debates I saw over the years, but I couldn't recall any president who talked that way to his opponent (or to the moderator). As I said, I'm not accustomed to it, but evidently this too is part of the new normal. I encounter a lot of folks who are okay with the president (and other politicians) talking this way. I still think that's a shame.
Yesterday, I heard that Helen Reddy passed away, at age 78. I still remember the impact her big hit "I Am Woman" made in the early 70s. (A few stations didn't want to play it, because they thought its message was too strongly feminist, but lots of folks loved the record, and it eventually became a #1 song.) In fact, I still remember the key role radio used to play in introducing and then helping to create hit songs. The fact that radio is now an afterthought for many young people is something I've written about before, but every time someone dies who was a hit-maker in the 60s or 70s or 80s, it just brings me back to my deejay days, and I remember how lucky I felt to finally be on the air.
As I said, it has been a strange few days and as the year 5781 of the Jewish calendar begins, all I can do is hope the struggles many of us endured in 5780 are behind us. Right now, it doesn't seem that these problems are going away, but by nature, I try to be optimistic. Still, I admit to being worried about the direction our country is going, and I'll be glad when the election is over. For now, I'm glad for the opportunity to blog, and I'm glad for those of you who read what I write. These are difficult times for many of us, but the one thing I truly believe in is the power of friendship. And until we can once again feel "normal" (whatever that means these days), I appreciate having friends to share the journey with. There's not much else I can say beyond that.