L’Shana Tova and Yom Tov
May we be written into the Book of Life for yet another year
It’s time to be grateful and mindful and hopeful. Yes. Even during the doldrums of the corona virus and economic downturns and general disconnect. Hope is the plan for the New Year. Welcome 5781 and may we each-all lives matter-be written into the book of life for yet another year. I was asked to write a ‘what this means to me’ article. Same old. Same old. I’m going to do it but on steroids. Up the ante this year.
Why not? I have been diagnosed with such a rare form of cancer that there is no known protocol and no immediate deadline-pardon the pun. I’ve got a dumb cancer in me. No blood cell or lymph node or organ involvement. It seems a garden was planted some 6+ years ago when I had my cancerous kidney removed and now I’m stage 4. We all know there is no stage 5. The garden is thriving and loves my fat and will even nibble on my muscle. But it’s a slow grower-dumb. It’s already years old and I feel fine. And I plan to continue this healthy veil for as long as I can—at least this year. There are vascular drugs my medical team is willing to experiment with on me and therefore starve the masses out of me. If my body responds, the tumors will hopefully reduce in size and be removed laparoscopically and I’m here for about 5-10 years more. It seems I’m no longer signed on for an unknown long- from -now natural death in my sleep. But there will still be lots of Yom Kippurs. Lots of hugs and kisses. Lots of normal. And hopefully the Covid 19 plague will be long gone-no matter the normal that remains. That’s not my battle. For me, it’s time to damn just plain old bad luck. I am 72 you know. Reaching 80 is still a good play book page. That’s my war. That’s my victory. My celebration will be to eat less fat and sugar. I’ll be svelte but strong. Not too shabby. I’ll take it.
Why am I even telling you this? Because in an election year of great consequence, in a time of cultural unease and upheaval, in a time of massive economic uncertainty, All Life Matters. Because , for me and some of you, Hadassah and their medical team is cutting edge. As is UCLA’s. Because tomorrow is a synonym for life and for hope. Because that’s the ultimate Yom Kippur message.
Every year many Jews-if not all-recognize the solemnity of Yom Kippur. It comes with fasting if you’re well enough. Self examination if you’re wise enough. Forgiveness from others as well as from the self –if you’re strong enough. It’s like the pursuit of happiness: a challenge defined and accepted by you. There are religious and not so religious Jews. Some of us just like some of the rituals and customs or life styles this religion offers. Some of us even kid around and call ourselves wallet Jews- sign a check over to the synagogue for this or that function or event or drive but don’t really attend synagogue with any regularity. Some call ourselves gastronomic Jews -circling our families and friends around the table at each other’s home or deli during holidays or for a sense of Jewish soul food comfort that reminds us of the old days or our grandparents’ kitchen. Some are so secular they just wear the mantle with pride when it becomes a topic. As you look at the picture that accompanies this article you have a small glimpse into my universe. These are a few my very close friends. And my son, who, by some fickle quirk of life has landed here during Covid and has been my advocate and secretary and general major domo navigating me through insurance hiccups and problems, time schedules and appointments, instructions and information. He’s has become my guide. I love him even more if that’s possible. The others around my table are some of my shabbat dinner friends and my walking friends. Ellen and I have known each other for years and years. We walk, talk, travel and share -especially over the past few years since her beloved husband passed away. Margie is the president of the local Hadassah group to which I serve as membership chair as well as a few lesser hats as needed. Peter is her husband and has been around this community and active in our temple for at least the forty years I have been. His wife passed away several years ago and he has found life and love with Margie. It’s a blessing. Looking at this table I count their eyes as blessings. I am blessed. No doubt about it. Regardless of how you consider or celebrate, you know who you are. And globally, this translates as: if you need help as a nation in catastrophe or a person in medical need-Hadassah is there. They are open, willing and knowledgeable. Hadassah is healing. Hadassah is another friend.
Hadassah has given me a platform as one of the Women Who Do who gets recognized for relieving, even in small part, some of the world’s woes. To be a member of such a forward moving and productive support of Jewish identities and lives across the globe is a point of pride for me. It provides purpose. Again, a reach into tomorrows which are better. We Jews often laugh at the old mantra: We fought a war. We won. Let’s celebrate. But with 5781 peeking its newly opening eyes into our worn but hopeful faces, we must remember that.
Yum Kippur is traditionally and spiritually and religiously a day of atonement and a cleansing, making you clean before the Lord. Its purpose religiously is to draw us a bit closer to G-d. This is not meant to be maudlin but mindful. We have a clean slate again and we can live in the present with an eye to the future. A basic Jewish tenet. We live for the living. We celebrate life. And whereas we never say ‘Happy Yom Kippur’, I wish each of you an easy fast and that we, each and every one of us, be sealed in the book of life for yet another year. There’s so much more good to come. And for us, the women of Hadassah who do, to do.