Thumbnail: Justice Ginsburg’s death was the ultimate kick in the stomach in a grinding year that I’m anxious to leave behind. As a result, I’m moving into the Jewish new year and the fresh start it offers.
Rosh Hashanah ushers in a new year and a new sense of hope.
I sure need it.
After all, it’s been feeling much more like Passover because 2020 is clearly the year of plagues.
We may not have had water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the killing of firstborn children, but it’s nonetheless been a time of trials by fire.
And if this year wasn’t already bad enough, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday night about the time that Kaddish began for Rosh Hashanah. The timing of her death has special significance in Jewish tradition: only the most righteous die at the very end of the year.
Tzadik is a title given to the righteous and saintly. It is especially fitting for Justice Ginsburg since the root of the word, sadiq, also means justice, a concept which she epitomized as a role model for all Americans who value equality and fair plan.
“Those who die on Rosh Hashanah are those God held back until the last moment – they were needed most and were the most righteous,” wrote Susan Adler Thorp on Facebook.
Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg brings to a close the year 5780 on the Jewish calendar, and although I’m not Jewish, I’m celebrating the new year 5781 because more than anything, we need a fresh start.
This year has simply become too exhausting, too emotionally draining, and too frustrating, producing mass angst. It has been the modern equivalent of the Biblical plagues.
There was the impeachment of President Trump and the Republican Party’s refusal to call witnesses so they could then contend he was acquitted. There is the relentless barrage of lies, fictions, and authoritarian declarations backed up by Trump’s anti-democratic policies and programs.
There have been the unforgiving forces unleashed by climate change – hurricanes more frequent and more powerful and vicious wildfires that have taken on unprecedented proportions. It takes place while Trump denies science even as smoke fills the sky outside his California meeting on wildfires.
The denial of science is a consistent theme for the Trump Administration. It continues despite 200,000 Americans dying of Covid-19. He’s even willing to let people die as he divides us over masks for political gain and undermines our long-standing respect for public health.
It’s been a year in which police officers killing African Americans were held to account with the support of a majority of outraged Americans. It produced new momentum for Black Lives Matter, which then became a political target for ring wing extremists led by the president and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, who enabled and ignored the mainstreaming of white nationalists responsible for twice as many terrorist killings than radical Muslims.
And there’s so much more. Each one of you can create your own plagues list.
That’s why the death of Justice Ginsberg was such a kick in the stomach. I already had a sense of dread for the rest of the year based on the deterioration of accepted norms and the proliferation of snark and conspiracies. It has produced a sense of foreboding and an expectation of disaster in the coming presidential elections.
That’s why I’m leaving 2020 behind. I’ve started a new year, 5781, and I’m adjusting to newly found optimism. It’s a new start and who better to be watching over it than a righteous and saintly person.
I’m leaving it to Justice Ginsberg to oversee a new year that begins with a presidential election that changes our trajectory and returns to the norms we value.
It’s all part of the better new year I need, and now, Justice Ginsberg, it’s up to you.