I was so looking forward to the return of High Holy Days rituals, awash with memories of numerous past years at Etz Chaim. The opening shofar, Tashlich with my sister’s family from Kol Emeth, hoping Fern was chanting Kol Nidre, being brought to tears by Rabbi Lewis’s yizkor sermon, hosting a break-fast for beloved family and friends. Even with careful spacing and minus hugs and kisses, it seemed perfect timing toward renewal.
The notice arrived two weeks ago, a mere three weeks after services had returned indoors, albeit with masks and pre-wrapped kiddush munchies: “All services are to return to Zoom.”
A great sadness hit me, almost despair, but anger too. And immediately I blamed “them” — the anti-vaxxers. If they would only wear their masks and follow protocol, we wouldn’t all be suffering this about-face, I thought.
Maybe the silver lining is that as I reflected on this, it helped me understand where some of the anger that is exploding in our country and around the world is coming from. Where do we draw the line between personal choice and community welfare? How can we draw a line as a community/country/world when every individual defines their own line? We can’t. “G-d grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the (only) one I can and the wisdom to know it’s me.” Not quite a malaprop or a mixed metaphor, but a piece of wisdom for which unfortunately, I can’t claim credit.
Instead of focusing on those whose opinions I do not share, l will try to remember that while the isolation of the pandemic has been horrible, there are those whose losses are worse: lost jobs, lost loved ones, lost hope — on both sides of the argument. It’s a reality that mental health is more important now than ever. As Jews, we believe we do not have to feel guilty about any feeling or thought that comes into our heart or mind. But we have the control and the responsibility to decide how to act.
Let us all think before we speak or act — is it necessary, is it helpful, is it kind? Let us all come from a place of kindness, hold all those we love kindly, and those we do not love even more kindly. Now that’s a mixed metaphor.
L’Shana Tova tikateivu, my beloved Atlanta community.
Nina Schlachter, D.O., is a board-certified psychiatrist and family doctor, a pioneer in eating disorders, and the proud Mommalah of five grown children.