Years ago, when my family was up in the country for the summer, my favorite weekend was Labor Day weekend. Most people left for the city, and the weather started to get a little cooler. After we gave up the bungalow, I would take vacations in August with members of my family. There were also summer concerts. Thus, when Rosh Hashanah came, I was in a good mood. It was easy to celebrate Yom Tov.
Not this year. I see little joy and a lot of pain. August has just been a continuation of the prior five months; the date and the weather may have changed but much else has not. There was no vacation, no concert, and little enjoyment. I lost another client last week; I do not know if it was COVID-related. There are almost 200,000 people who have died from the virus in the United States and almost 900,000 worldwide. The economy is still bad.
Minyanim have had to adapt for Rosh Hashanah. In order to have social distancing, the minyan that I daven at on Rosh Hashanah had to limit the number of people who could come, and only had room for men. There will be other means in place to try to limit exposure, such as having only one person open the aron kodesh. Therefore, there are fewer choices for those who want to be socially distant and follow the proscribed rules. Some people will have to daven at home. Also, part of the enjoyment of the holiday is having guests. That is also out the window for those who want to slow the spread or are afraid of contracting the virus.
Another reminder of the situation we are in was the death of Tom Seaver. For Mets fans of a certain age, he was the greatest player in team history and the face of the franchise for many years. He was referred to as “Tom Terrific” and “The Franchise.” The day after his death, I was speaking with a fellow attorney who’s a few years younger than Seaver. He was so shook up by his death that he is thinking of retiring.
I have a signed picture of Seaver in front of Shea Stadium as it looked in the 1960s. The signature is faded and unrecognizable. The façade of Shea was modified in the 1970s and then knocked down after the 2008 season. There is no portion of the building remaining. All that is left is a parking lot and four plaques in the ground to show where home plate, first base, second base, and third base were. Now Tom Seaver is gone.
The last time I saw Seaver was in 2009, on the 40th anniversary of his one-hitter. Seaver came because they were naming one of the entrances of Citi Field after him. There were a few fans standing outside when he came. He was business-like, and did not come over to greet the few who were there. Instead, he just walked inside for a press conference.
Right now, the future looks grim. Unless you believe the snake oil salesmen Trump and Putin, it will be a while before there is a vaccine that is effective, safe, and can be widely distributed. The country is more divided than ever.
Also, many experts expect that COVID-19 will get worse in the fall and winter due to cooler weather, which causes people to be indoors more as well as the beginning of flu season.
We live in a polarized society. I worry that Trump will not accept the results of the election if mail-in voting is the deciding factor, even if the courts rule against him. Conversely, if Biden loses and some Democrats believe there was voter suppression or the post office deliberately withheld ballots, there could be violent protests.
Tom Seaver’s life should give us hope. When Seaver came to the Mets in 1967, they were the joke of all sports. They never finished above last place. Some have said that Seaver’s becoming a Met was the first good thing that happened for the franchise. Nevertheless, if anybody at the beginning of the 1969 baseball season had told you that the Mets would win 100 games and win the World Series, you probably would have told them that they should see a psychiatrist. Yet the impossible happened.
Last Rosh Hashanah, if someone had told you that there was going to be a world pandemic, you would have thought that they were crazy. If the “impossible” happened to cause the pandemic, the same can happen to end it.
It is easy to be joyful when everything is going well. This year is a challenge. However, if we believe that our conduct and prayers have the power to change the world then we can be happy. This is the year to daven with extra feeling while enjoying Rosh Hashana. Wishing a happy and healthy year for our families, the Jewish community and worldwide.