My dear friend texted to ask if I wanted her to bake me a round challah for the Jewish New Year. I was elated. “Yes, tell me what time to come pick it up.” We agreed on 5:00 pm. I stopped on my way over to pick up a bouquet of flowers. She was just arriving home as I pulled up and parked. I jumped out of the car with a smile, feeling grateful to have this generous person in my life. I handed her the bunch of red roses, orange gerbera daisies, and yellow alstroemerias, hoping to elicit a smile.
“You haven’t heard,” she said looking into my eyes.
“Heard what?” I replied reflexively, as on cue, not even thinking.
“Ruth Bader Ginsberg died.”
“NO! NO. No. No…”
I stared at her.
“We will remember this day for the rest of our lives,” I said quietly.
She agreed. We were now forever a part of each other’s herstory.
I took the beautiful challah and got back into my car. Driving alone, my mind started reeling: Abortion. We’ll go underground. More women are doctors now than when abortion was illegal years ago.
The November 2020 election came onto my mental screen: the results will likely end up in the Supreme Court. The tears welled up. It was all too much. But this was not the time for tears. Action is needed. Yet, imagining a Supreme Court deciding in favor of 45 was more than my heart could hold. I began sobbing and could not stop. I made it to my house and parked in front, unable to walk down the flight of stairs to my front door. Slouched over the steering wheel, I cried and cried. Ten minutes later my husband returned home and found me howling.
“What’s the matter?”
“Haven’t you heard the news?” I asked. “Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”
“Yes, I have. It’s bad. It’s only going to get worse,” he said before stroking my hair and inviting me inside. Marrying a truth teller has its moments.
Inside, my oldest son consoled me with a hug. He knew better than to say, “It’s going to be okay.” He said those five words after the 2016 election, and I gave him an earful.
My younger son said, “Jewish law says that anyone who dies on Erev Rosh Hashanah is a Tzaddik. Write about that in your blog post. A Tzaddik.” He said this to comfort me, referring to the Jewish label for a person of great righteousness.
One of the reasons for a round challah is to remind us of the circular nature of the year and seasons. For me, it’s a reminder of the cyclical nature of life: recurring ups and downs; new life and eventual death; happiness and sadness.
This is a season for grieving. I’ve come to accept that there is no consolation for me. Yet, it does not feel like the time to cave into my sadness. Ruth modeled that so well. She used her life force to fight for what she believed to be just, kept her mind strong, and her body in shape.
So, in RBG’s memory, I’ll ask myself three questions as I move through the Jewish New Year 5781:
- Am I using my mind to advance justice?
- Am I doing my very, very best?
- Am I keeping my body healthy so I can do what I’m here to do?
I hope these questions fuel me toward righteousness till the very end, in honor of her greatness.
Rest in Power RBG.
Photo by Jen Theodore www.unsplash.com