By Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post—
In a year quite unlike any other, it is hardly surprising that the High Holy Days have gotten off to an unparalleled start.
All the usual trappings, such as packed synagogues on Rosh Hashanah or large gatherings of family and friends, were markedly and painfully absent.
And even as socializing has devolved into social distancing, and politics into pugilism, Israelis now face the prospect of an increasingly restrictive lockdown in advance of Sukkot.
This is not how it was supposed to be.
Or is it?
If the coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it is that the assumptions we make, whether consciously or not, shape much of how we experience the world.
Indeed, all of the disappointment that has been expressed, all the sorrow and poignancy surrounding the start of the new year, are a direct function of our expectations, of the way we think that things ought to be.
Our very idea of normalcy has been put to the test, shaking the assumptions that underlie much of how we view the world.
In some quiet moments of reflection on Rosh Hashanah, it occurred to me that one of the most human of yearnings – “Why can’t things just go back to the way they were?” – is also one of our greatest vulnerabilities.
Instead of accepting reality, and grappling with it as best we can, we cling to something that once was or that may never be, inevitably setting ourselves up for disillusionment and discontent. If we could just find a way to “go with the flow” – to accept the fact that as important as we think we are, we are each just specks of dust in the grand scheme of things – so much unnecessary anguish could be avoided.
Perhaps that is precisely one of the key lessons of Rosh Hashanah, a central theme of which is recognizing God’s kingship and supremacy.
By definition, as subjects of a Higher Power, none of us has the right or authority to expect our every wish to be fulfilled, every hope to be realized and every dream to come to fruition.
Nonetheless, we do it anyway, in the process forgetting our place in the world and the fleeting nature of life.
Just look at the extent to which people will go to cling to their own sense of what must be. Each night, it seems, the news brings more reports of yet another mass demonstration, enormous wedding or covert party being held despite the pandemic and soaring rate of infection.
Some people are so wedded to their own insistence on how reality should be that it seems to take precedence over their own personal safety and that of those around them.
As distressing as the overlap of COVID-19 and the High Holy Days has been, we would all do well to utilize this experience to reorient our perceptions and perspective.
Corona, the Spanish word for “crown,” and Rosh Hashanah, the day of God’s coronation, demand that we each take charge of our own fate while embracing the cold, hard fact that no human being is ever truly and fully in control.
Shortly, on the Day of Atonement, we will all have an opportunity to do just that. Continue Reading….