In My Own Words: Uninspired

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

I’m feeling totally uninspired and wondering why since I usually have more ideas for this column than I can write. Maybe it’s the cough that has taken up residence in my throat and doesn’t want to leave. Perhaps it’s political overload: even the most outrageous statements don’t register because I now expect certain politicians to say bizarre, ridiculous and alarming things on a regular basis. Or, sigh, it could be reading far too much about death and destruction that seems to have no end. Even worse, no one has real answers as to how to create a lasting peace in Israel, Ukraine and more places than I can mention here. I don’t feel like I have something new to add to these conversations, partly because the experts I’ve read either have no solutions to offer, or can’t agree on the best path.

To help myself out of these doldrums, I’ve been focusing on the upcoming holiday. Just as with Hanukkah, there are people who want to change what we do for Purim for a variety of reasons, some of which make sense to me. Although I understand that impulse, acknowledging the holiday feels ever more important to me this year. I feel a need for Purim silliness: dressing up in costume, laughing at a Purimspiel and acting as if all is well with the world for a few hours.

I know this won’t save democracy in the United States (from whichever political party you think threatens it); I know it won’t free the hostages still in Hamas’ hands or create a lasting peace in Israel; and it certainly won’t prevent the continuing rolling back of women’s rights in the U.S. But if we want to have the energy to keep fighting for our political beliefs, then we need to periodically refresh ourselves and that means reminding ourselves of the simple joys life offers. We need to take a walk and notice the buds on the trees and appreciate the warm weather. (Of course, by the time this appears in the paper, we will probably have had another snowstorm: it is March in New York after all. But I think you get what I mean.)

This morning, I went outside to pick up my recycling bins and heard a strange sound. I paused to figure out what it was because I still have trouble identifying sounds. It took a few seconds for me to realize it was a bird singing. I stood there and remembered the years I couldn’t hear that simple sound. In fact, I spent at least 30 years unable to hear birds singing; my hearing difficulties started long before my final hearing loss. I know a bird chirping doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of the world, but it does serve as a reminder that even with all the fuss and mess we humans make, nature continues. I may not be able to solve the world’s problems, but I can pause to note its wonders. Those wonders can give us the energy and desire to return to working for tikkun olam, the repair of our world. Our ancient sages said – in a statement that bears repeating – it is not ours to complete the task, nor should we cease from it.