Taking the Time

This has been the longest roller coaster ride of my life… The roller coaster metaphor barely approximates this year without equal, this annus horibbilis.  What a ride…

There were many fraught moments when I remembered the Anthony Newley musical title, Stop the World – I want to Get Off. Where is the exit sign? Where is the Instruction Manual? What next?

This year of surgery, plague and anxiety, recovery, vaccination, and redemption is slowing down; the cars are pulling into the station. Finally, I can see faces again. I can hug again. I can take a deep breath.

Before Shabbat is going on hiatus for the summer, and so am I. The Stern Gang will be away seeking R&R during the month of July. I’m going to Cape Cod – again. It is, as so many of you know by now, my place of refuge. It’s where I excel at sitting in the sun and listening to jazz. I get to watch the ocean’s dynamic, ever-changing rhythms.

My Before Shabbat hiatus comes to make room for new thoughts and themes. It’s a way to consolidate my brain’s hard drive. I’ll be doing some reading, some grilling, and some relaxing. I hope to create some quiet time to think new thoughts about where we are right now and how we move in time.

Vacation or not, High Holy Day sermon themes rush through my head. It’s a long-time habit, a reflex. So I’ve been thinking about the things we learned over this past year. How did we alter our behavior? What motivated us to hold on? What were the sources of our resilience? What were the ways we stepped up and became better citizens? What lessons do we hope to adopt into our worldview permanently? But, just as importantly, what did we learn about ourselves that we vow never to repeat?

To help answer some of these questions, I’m waiting patiently for the first comprehensive history of this pandemic. It’ll take a few years for that text to be written. It must be a study of heroes and villains, of scientists and scholars, of fools and scofflaws. It will feature politicians who endeavored to head off the avalanche of preventable deaths.  It will expose other politicians who betrayed the health of their people in service to shameful preening self-interest.

Until that book or books appear, I’ll be compiling my answers and sharing them with you from time to time. I hope to provide some clarity and shed some light from our tradition. I take my inspiration from the rabbinic tradition, a two-thousand-year-old willingness to process history and experience through Jewish eyes and with a Jewish heart. I have always sought to express myself from that same place of engagement with life rather than retreat and pen commentary from a distance.

For now, though, as Nobel laureate Bob Dylan once sang, “This ol’ world/Keeps on and slowly going/ So I’m gonna sit here on this bank of sand/ And watch the river flow.”

Bank of sand or Nauset Beach, river or sea, it’s all about the breathing free and watching life flow.

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