Monday, September 28, 2020

Let The New Year Begin: Only Good Things

Yom Kippur 5781 has zoomed into history. The impact of communal repentance while separated by a pandemic will be with us for years to come. The experience was different (that's a Minnesota different) with pluses and minuses: the Senior Son was "present" from Milwaukee, with my video off, I could move when I got shpilkes and still daven, machzor in hand. On the negative side, some of the ambient noise during sensitive parts of the liturgy (especially Yizkor, the memorial service)was disconcerting at best, exceptionally annoying at times. Of course, Ziggy still isn't there to scratch my back when I get an itch, or lend me a shoulder when I'm yawning. But that's an ongoing complaint.

If you're unfamiliar with Yom Kippur, there's a Wiki link for that. It's not the simplest holiday on the planet to explain; it's deeply rooted in the Jewish philosophy of what constitutes repentance. And when we confess out sins, it's as a community, not as an individual, everyone is included. Which, when you think about it, is an awesome responsibility. But it also means admitting to oneself where one failed, and how one can do better. 

The best thing YK gave me this year was 26 hours out of the news cycle. For that small amount of time, I occasionally wondered what was happening, but I didn't care enough to turn on the television, not even when I woke up...and CBS Morning News "Your World In  90 Seconds" is usually the first thing I see before I pop into my study for morning minyan. Part of me would like to extend that little bubble for a few days, but alas, I have a blog to write tonight...even if all day was the most solemn day of the year. 

Another thing about Yom Kippur is the required self-assessment. There was a lot to review from this year, most of which contributed to my decision to retire ahead of schedule. At the same time, I had an entire new life begin back in March, and I am still trying to figure out the finer details of being a person of some leisure....quarantine not withstanding. This alone makes year-in-review an interesting challenge.

To you, my gentle readers, I will try to write better episodes, and to keep my temper and tin-foil hat in place when the bull-hockey flies. That'll be hard, but I'm gonna try. I won't give up my soap-boxes, but I will try to screech less.  [Screech. There's a name I haven't heard in a while. Thank you, Zayde.] 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

 Joe Biden should've agreed to the urine test with the following disclaimer: 
Can't say I expected anything less ridiculous from a piss-ant wanna-be dictator. But sure, I'll take a urine test. You first.


Monday, September 21, 2020

RBG: May Your Memory Be For A Revolution

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dead at 87
Notorious RBG 

Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way the will lead others to join you.  RBG

We got the news just after the Senior Son and Mrs. Senior Son were signing off their zoom-in for Rosh HaShana kiddush and motzi with the family. I heard my IM-ding and glanced at the message. The breath was sucked right out of me. How could I say the words? How could I tell anyone? How could this possibly be true on Erev Rosh Ha'Shana? 

I've been making a Mi Shaberach for Ita Ruchel bat Tzelia Leah every morning at minyan for the last few years. I heard her interviewed right after one of the cancer bouts, and when asked about people praying for her, she chuckled and said, "Ita Ruchal bat Tzelia Leah...some people will ask." I began the next morning. 

I never met Justice Ginsburg, but I started reading some of her decisions (I love her writing style) and was ecstatic when she was named to SCOTUS. Ziggy and I actually celebrated. We thought it was the best nomination ever, and she was overwhelmingly approved. We couldn't wait to hear her first dissenting opinion. We were fans from the get-go.

Then there is the matter of my RBG sweatshirt collection. This has been going on for a while. I guess everyone knows I am a long time devotee of Justice Ginsberg. As her fame grew, so did the images that began appearing. It started with Notorious RBG, which, according to all reports, she loved. She was named as a patronus...and I adopted her as my own because, after all, I would want her to be the guardian between me and the Dementors running this administration. Who could blame me for wanting to stand against evil with her? In real life, she was the guardian for so many people and institutions.  

She was a Life Member of Hadassah. So am I. So is Mrs. Junior Son. Hadassah isn't a Jewish joke punch line; Hadassah is an organization dedicated to social service around the globe. Justice Ginsburg routinely met with the Hadassah Attorney's Council when they were sworn in at the Supreme Court. From Hadassah's obituary for Justice Ginsburg:
...she repeatedly credited Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold as being an inspiration to her, one of "the two Jewish women, raised in the United States of America, whose humanity and bravery inspired me" and who she credits for being a "Zionist even before Theodor Herzl came on the scene."
At her core, she was quintessentially Jewish. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Kenosha and used this for the tip o'the day:

צדק, צדק, תרדוף
Tzedek, tzedek tirdof
Justicejustice shall you pursue
(Deuteronomy 16:20) 

Justice Ginsburg had this same pasuk hanging on the wall in her Supreme Court office. "The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and tradition," she said more than once. Although her personal religious observance was forever altered when, as a girl, she was forbidden to say kaddish for her mother because there were not ten men present for a minyan (prayer quorum), her commitment to Jewish values remained steadfast. Still she considered getting the court not to sit on the first day of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, with the help of Justice Breyer, one of her "big achievements." On one scale, that might seem small...but if you are Jewish, that is huge.

And that's what made her such an icon. She saw the big picture. Justice Ginsburg wasn't out there just for women's equal rights under the law...she was out there for gender equity. She understood at her very core the need to take apart patriarchy in order to secure gender equity for all. This is not how many of us see equal rights; we see it as a women's issue when, in fact, it is a gender issue that requires scrutiny. Ruth Bader Ginsburg led the way by tackling cases where men were denied because they were men. (The movie case, Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue was selected because it blended both personal and political intersection.) By stepping away from the normative process, Ginsburg the lawyer was able to see past the obvious in order to rearrange the depth of an issue so it became universal. That was the truly brilliant part. Her ability to present that every-person aspect of gender equity changed everything. 

Her appointment to SCOTUS was not a great surprise to many, but her renown as a jurist and champion of human rights grew exponentially once she had the fringe. (We'll talk about that in a moment.) She became an icon, a role model to be emulated by girls, a reminder to stay in the fight for people fighting for their rights, and a great source of sage advice for all Americans. 

Let's talk about dissents for a moment. I heard someone on the idiotbox refer to Justice Ginsburg as cantankerous. I must dissent from that opinion. She wasn't mean-spirited or arbitrarily harsh, rather she was intent on getting the opposing viewpoint on the record. She was good at that. Justice Ginsburg has written some scathingly brilliant dissents. And her rationale for composing eloquent dissent opinions is spot on:

"Dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say, 'My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.' But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that's the dissenter's hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow."
And not to be forgotten, one must write a bit about the humor of Justice Ginsburg. She was a fashionable lady. Her court clothes were always impeccable. But it was her love of the collar that got everyone going. Since there isn't a whole lotta wiggle room in designer judicial robes, Justice Ginsburg loved giving her audience a soupçon of what she was thinking or what was coming down the pike. And she did it in a way that became her trademark: the collar. She had a brilliant collection, each one with its own meaning, the most famous of which is the Dissent Collar

It was Banana Republic swag. It was in a swag bag at an event. I love it:

For years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has used one accessory to channel her disapproval: a Banana Republic bib necklace, affectionately known as her "dissent collar."
The Supreme Court Justice has imbued multiple jabots with meaning, from her crocheted "majority opinion" collar to her favorite lace look. But it's the dissent collar that's garnered the biggest following—perhaps because RBG fans love to see their feminist Justice take a stand, even if she can't do so out loud.  
ImageThe now-famous necklace reportedly came into Ginsburg's possession through Glamour's "Woman of the Year" event in 2012, when it was placed in swag bags. And why did she choose it to show her disagreement? Ginsburg explained to Katie Couric that she chose it as her dissent collar because, quite simply, "it looks fitting for dissents."
The Justice is known to wear the necklace when the Supreme Court announces a decision she's against, but she's also donned it on other occasions—such as the day after Donald Trump's election in 2016.

I have Dissent earrings from Mr. and Mrs. Senior Son, and a Dissent pin from Ruthie, my coworker, who also gave me my RBG action figure. I guess this is my version of Star Wars figures or American Girl dolls. Except this is a real person who did real things in the real world that have had a tremendous impact on all of us, men and women alike. 

She fought for our right to control our own bodies, to marry the person we love, to get credit and loans in our own names, and to be treated equitably in the workplace. Her causes could be reduced to a single idea: Tikkun Olam. A while back, she was asked how she would like to be remembered, and Justice Ginsburg replied: someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.
She accomplished what she set out to do, but I am certain there is lots left undone for us to take up where she left off.  The work doesn't stop because she isn't sitting there on the bench. It goes on. We must go on. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Joan Ruth "Kiki" Ginsburg, you will be missed for so many reasons. 
Your memory will not simply be for a blessing; your memory must be for a revolution. 

Fearless Girl faces the NY Stock Exchange.
The collar is perfect. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

L'Shana Tova 5781

According to Google Maps, it is exactly 1 mile from our house on Beckman Drive to Temple Beth-EL (z"l) on Bellmore  Road. A mile sounded  like a long  walk when I was a kid, but it really wasn't. We didn't walk on Shabbat, but we did on the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur. I've written about this before, so I won't repeat the warning about new shoes. 

According to Google Maps, we were exactly 3 miles from  shul. I rarely walked even on the High Holy Days, but the kids occasionally did. But  now, in this house, I am back to 1 mile from shul, and on occasion,I walk. I've even walked with my brother one year. But this year, my brother isn't coming here because, the wise fellow he is, he is not getting on a plane  and frankly, I don't blame him. Services are via Zoom, and he will join from his home in Pennsylvania. I even sent him a Machzor so he can feel like it's almost regular. Which it is not. The only walking to shul I'll be doing is from one room in my house to another. 

I am not looking forward to the Yamim Nora'im, the Days of Awe, as they are often called. My heart, not to mention my brain, isn't engaged yet. I am going through all my usual prep for the holy days, but it seems empty, as though the confrontation with my past year has already been sucked out of me. 

Suddenly deciding to retire last March, followed by 4 glorious weeks of self-quarantine so I could be the nanny for a few weeks, was a rather intense but abstract period of transition for me. I did a lot of thinking during those weeks, trying to figure out who I was versus who I wanted to be going forward. I had lots of questions for myself: some I could answer; others I had to think about for a while. So I did.

But now, as Rosh HaShannah is rapidly approaching, I find I am asking myself the usual end o'year questions like what could I have done better? Who did I piss off and need to apologize to?  Was there anything that I did that made me disappointed in myself or my reactions?  None of these are easy questions for anyone to answer, but they must be answered honestly.

I suspect I am one of the few who did not mind the lockdown or isolation. I think I needed the time to be quiet both inside and out. (Okay, peeps...stop laughing....I hear you from here.) And I think there has been a marked change in me...or at least some people tell me I am very different from the person they knew before March 20th, 2020. Part of me doesn't feel any different, but another part feels like an entirely different person. I think I'm okay with that. Whatever the genesis, I am thankful for the time alone. 

Although the kiddos will be here for First Night/Shabbat dinner on Friday, I imagine I will be davening alone on Rosh HaShannah. I struggle with the question where to daven. I still attend morning minyan almost every day...but instead of popping over to shul, I am at my desk. But I want something different for Rosh HaShannah. Do I take the laptop outside and daven on the mirpeset (little deck) or do I bring the spare Mac down and daven in the dining room? I need to make this different, even though it is so different I can't stand it. 

How we all adapt to the new reality is a test of strength and character. Every adaptation will be different. Each person will have to find a new comfort niche. Some may be more successful than others, and some may find a different level of comfort in the new process. In so many ways, this is like grieving...which we are all doing. No one can tell you how to grieve, just as no one can tell you how to find your own zone of kavanah. None of this is easy.

But maybe that has to be the point. Maybe the new discomfort will provide the impetus to grow? Setting aside beloved traditions will be hard; creating new ones will be interesting. We have no idea how long we will need those new ones, and whether or not they are permanent changes. We will all chafe a bit at the changes.

Maybe, it's like the shoes I wrote about in my first Rosh HaShannah post back in September of 2010, a decade ago:


When I was a kid, the High Holidays always meant a couple of new dresses and a pair of shoes that were never broken-in enough for the mile walk to shul. The first day of the holiday was synonymous with heel blisters. Despite that, I really loved the walk, though. I loved to stop on the bridge over the parkway and count cars with my dad and brother. It was as much a part of the ritual of Rosh HaShannah as the sneezing from the goldenrod that grew everywhere. You walked with your family, even if your best friend’s family was walking 10 feet ahead of you, and somehow, you didn’t mind so much.   

This year, the new discomfort for many of us will be walking alone...from the bedroom to whatever room we will sit in to pray as a Zoom Community. On the walk, however brief, we all remember what the old way was like...and we will tentatively embrace the new way because that's all we have at the moment. 

And who knows? Maybe we will all grow a little wiser for the experience. 

Wishing those who observe a L'shana tova u'metuka....may you have a sweet New Year. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Buy local honey for dipping.
Honey grown in your area is good for what ails you.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Losers As Far As the Eye Can See

FIL is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery right next to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. It's a big place; you need a map to find your way around. Although I now know without looking where FIL is to be found, the map remains in my glove box, along with an attached note telling me where the gathering place was for his brief but spectacular funeral. Just in case.

But I don't get lost because I am already a loser. And I am not alone. 

I have never been alone at Fort Snelling. There are always losers everywhere you look. I don't mean the men and women beneath the white headstones. I mean the real losers....the ones who are there, heads bowed, because they have lost someone. I stand with those losers because I have lost all my veterans. I can still hear their voices in my head on appropriate occasions. But every single one of them, if you had the great good fortune to know them, would happily tell you what was in it for them when they served their country in uniform. Without exception, they would all tell you it wasn't about them; it was about this country.

I don't think any of them would recognize this America.

Feckless leader says he respects the military and would never say anything bad about them. Au contraire, Monsieur President. Here's a small sample of how he respects our men and women in uniform:

These are fine examples of how to honor those who devote their lives to the preservation of our nation, dontacha think?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

The Washington Post is one of my go-to news sources, but lately, I don't wanna go there. The paid ads are all for an America I do not recognize. They are non-stop lies that have been debunked repeatedly by fact-checkers world wide, yet the Wash Po accepts those adverts and runs these videos of dystopian disinformation. Same adverts run ad nauseum during the local news.

If you run an ad claiming your pillow cured cancer, no TV station in American would run it because it's bullshit. Yet when a political party puts up an ad that accuses a political rival of acts that just NEVER happened, it's okay. 

How is that okay? 

We're not talking about spin here. We're talking about vetted, disproven, debunked lies. Would you teach your kid that it's okay to lie so long as someone believes him/her?

This is broken. 

I not talking about censorship here; I'm talking about truth in advertising. I am not suggesting that political ads be banned...although I confess, that sounds pretty good to me, but when an advert can be PROVEN to contain falsehoods and disinformation, the media should have the right to refuse to run it. 

This applies to both parties. 

When I see the ads being run by the RNC, I see terror because that's what they want me to see. They talk about Biden's America v. Trump's America....but I don't understand that parallel at all. 

Under the Obama/Biden administration, the economy was pulled back from the precipice, employment rose steadily, crime was generally, down, and while there were certainly long overdue racial issues rising rapidly to the surface, the general sense was not civil war approaching. A potential pandemic was even averted. 

Feckless Leader has been president for three years, long enough for us to get a taste of "Trump's America," and it ain't nuthin' to brag about. His lies are documented by fact checkers on the right and left of center. The pandemic didn't just go away with the warmer weather as he promised. As of tonight (September 7th) there are 189,000 deaths reported. The economy for about 98% of Americans is in shambles. Thousands of businesses have shuttered permanently due to the pandemic, and millions of people are on the cusp of losing their homes through eviction. 

While we're at it, most of the people who have lost jobs have also lost employer-based health insurance making accessible care a fantasy.

Our stable genius president thinks he can fix this by permanently ending payroll taxes. He thinks that money will find its way into workers' pockets. Yeah, right. 

Okay, let me ask you a question: can you afford to retire if there is no Social Security income?

Now that I've scared you, I'll stop now.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Day
  From Pirke Avot - Ethics of the Fathers
(circa 200 C.E)
Chapter 2, Mishna 3 
Watch out for the government:
they befriend a person to meet their own needs,
appearing friendly when it is to their benefit; 
but they do not stand by a person 
when that person is in distress.

Ya think?