Three Ladies, Three Lattes: Who needs the chagim?

A FAMILY celebrates together on Rosh Hashanah eve, September 2019 (photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
A FAMILY celebrates together on Rosh Hashanah eve, September 2019
(photo credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)
I am a young Orthodox mother of two small children living in Jerusalem. My husband’s family and mine all live abroad. This year with corona making shul services doubtful, and even social meals challenging, I am finding it hard to work up my usual enthusiasm for the upcoming chagim. How do you three ladies feel about this?
Danit Shemesh
Every day we hear about another neighbor being tested positive, and others in bidud (isolation). It’s like balls of fire are falling around me and people are getting hit. And, yes. I’m losing my mojo too.
But coronavirus does not distinguish between Orthodox and secular. We are all in this together, just like the chagim are ours together.
The chagim not only symbolize but also realize great potential for true change. Tshuva is an inner shift toward the better version of you. Each month presents us with its own lesson, its own pearl of wisdom for our personal and collective evolution. We must renew our lessons every year so as not to fall prey to the worst enemy: complacency. Tishrei asks us to be significant because Somebody wants me here, and I want to be close to that Somebody.
This is an intense personal time and endeavor. A time to be inward and real with myself; to do a sort of internal inventory of who I am and who I want to be.
Corona came in on the cycle of the year at Purim, a time for joy. It continued through Passover, a time for freedom; through Shavuot, a time for receiving of Torah, a covenant; the 9th of Av, a time for destruction; and now with Rosh Hashanah, a time for renewal and change. It is also a time for planning of the future, which presumes that there is a future and hope. Even with corona.
A different future, but a future.
Pam Peled
This year, as my mind turns to spiritual thoughts and elevated concepts such as renewal and redemption, all I can picture is hordes of black coats crowding into small spaces and spreading corona (according to all statistics). I think of the madness of Uman, and that infamous mass Hareidi wedding… and I’m afraid that I just can’t feel festive.
A terrible, terrible thing is happening in the land of Israel. Some secular Israelis are equating religion now with these fanatics, who not only endanger their own lives and ours, but, incredibly, hold the balance of power in the Knesset. I am sad to keep hearing shocking sentiments: they don’t want to be tested? They don’t stick to guidelines? Let them go to their own hospitals and find their own ventilators; let their own nurses and doctors treat them according to the Torah. Or let God heal them in their homes.
Far from feeling the traditional full-of-gratitude-for-blessings and embracing of even better times ahead, some Jews are looking at other Jews as the bearers of disease and insanity – who have our prime minister holding onto their long black coattails.
It’s tragic.
What can I say? I hope to hear the shofar this year as usual, heralding in a new beginning. I’ll set a festive table, and gather the family (according to the purple tag) and over chopped liver and apples and honey we’ll thank God for his benevolence and ask Him to help us get back on a sane, sustainable track.
Tzippi Sha-ked
Three weeks ago, we celebrated our oldest daughter’s wedding. None of our siblings, nieces, nephews or friends attended the festivities. Corona limited the guests but fortunately not our enthusiasm.
For these many pandemic months I have kept a dark secret that I dared not share – until now. Corona has hit us hard: my father-in-law succumbed to its ravages in America and, lehavdil, my mother-in-law is moving in with us to escape the isolation of her Israeli retirement home. But this hermit-like living and hermetically sealed time had a plus side: major family time without distractions of outings and social gatherings. I loved it.
Enthusiasm re: the High Holy Days? Somehow knowing we are in this together makes this an opportunity to cheerlead others. There are benefits to living differently: my sister-in-law doesn’t ever want to commute back to work; she’s happy at home with time to cook. Kids are acclimating to Zoom and some now happily declare high school a waste of time. Life is morphing amid much uncertainty. For as long as this lasts, we can choose to be unpaid actors in a Life is Beautiful movie – harnessing will, humor and imagination to get us through this year. There will be sober davening, empty seats and bitter moments ahead, but we will get through this.
Pam would love to pin the blame on haredim raising pandemic stats and sad holidays. In their defense, haredim are tired of demonstrators, beach revelers and others getting free societal passes. This holiday let’s focus on cheerleading, not blaming others. It may not be the Promised Land for all, but this place does hold promise. Chag Sameah!
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