Monday, September 21, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #27: September 20, 2020

 Hi all,

This weekend was Rosh Hashanah, one of the Jewish High Holidays.  I got up early on Saturday morning, dutifully put on a dress, high heels, and even Spanx (for the second time of the entire quarantine), only to realize that services were being broadcast over a one-way Zoom and a YouTube link.  I was at a loss - do I change back into my pajamas and recline on the couch, or stand up all the straighter in my holiday finery?  What does it mean to be "solemn" when I'm in the same room in which I watch football, bake cookies, play video games, and, continuously, do my work?  What does it mean to have a "new start" to the Jewish year when I know that tomorrow will look exactly the same as last Monday did?  How do I celebrate with my community when I can't see or speak to any of them?  When I can't walk across the aisle to greet Bob and Susan, George and Barbara, Betsy and Arnie and Carol and Nita and Sylvia and the two Debs?  When I can't marvel at the beauty of our synagogue, harmonize with Abbey across the aisle, chat with my former classmates after services while my parents wait impatiently for me to be ready to leave, or show up early to claim the same seats my family has been sitting in since I was born?

And, when it came to the section of the services set aside for personal reflection and prayer, what is it that I would pray for this year?  How do you set priorities when your country is in tatters, your friends are scattered to the winds (or the cloud, as it may be), your family is hurting, your life plans are delayed or derailed, and absolutely nothing feels like it's the way it's supposed to be?  How do you create a plan to restore your life to the vision in your mind?  What help do you ask for, from G-d, from friends, or from anyone else, when you don't even know what would help, or if anything could?

These questions, for the most part, don't have answers.  The only thing I could do was turn inward and trust that an answer would present itself.  I did end up changing back into my pajamas (if only because I don't plan to send out any dry cleaning for many more months to come), and I settled in on the couch for what I knew would be another new and strange experience.  I reflected on all the questions above, but mostly I tried to do what I would if I were attending services in person - soak in the beauty of my synagogue's service, beam with pride as my friends and fellow members sang beautiful songs, read torah portions, and delivered powerful messages for the community about bittersweet anecdotes and - always - hope.  I marveled at Josh's melodies and got chills when I listened to Abbie Grace and Jadyn.  I cried, I smiled, and I prayed.  And then I joined a Zoom call in the afternoon and wished my family L'Shanah Tovah (Happy New Year).  It certainly wasn't the same - rather than prepping with my mom to host 20 people at my parents' house, we sat on Zoom and chatted about how much we missed my aunt's kreplach (Jewish dumplings) and my mom's matzah balls and our family's secret-recipe brisket (every Jewish family has one, I think).  Rather than greeting my friends at the synagogue, I just thought about them and telepathically wished them a happy new year, and I smiled at the knowledge that they were probably thinking of me, too.

And above all, I was filled with excitement at the idea of how sweet it will be to see everyone next year - my family and my friends and my same old seat in the 5th row.  Sweeter than ever, perhaps.  And it occurred to me that that's true of so many things in my life these days - while I desperately miss my friends, it will be that much more thrilling to make preparations to host a game night or football when we're able to again.  It will be that much more comforting to see my family.  It will be that much sweeter to sit in the backyard or walk through the botanical gardens or bike down the boardwalk or hike to the top of an impossibly high mountain in Alaska.  Things we took for granted will be exciting experiences - checking into a hotel, or selecting my own produce, or reviewing the menu at a restaurant.  And I doubt I will be interested in small talk for a very long time - I'm going to want to hear about what really matters, what really happened recently, what is truly being felt.

And so, in the meantime, I will leave you with a traditional wish in a very untraditional year, and I mean it as much as I ever have: L'Shanah Tovah U'metukah!  For a sweet and happy new year!

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg: As the media has spoken of little else this weekend, so shall the Digest.  I'll be back next week with the usual content - RBG deserves the spotlight for this week.  As a woman who prides myself on my utter disregard for glass ceilings, RBG is absolutely an icon - she is one of the many strong, fierce women who have inspired me all my life.  RIP, RBG.

COMING NEXT WEEK: A preview of some wonderful fall entertainment options, followed by the final installment of the "Best of..." series.  Coming later this fall: Sam's holiday gift guides

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