September 19th, 2020

bilbo

Wes thu hal, RBG

I've been deeply saddened by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. Others will think and comment on the politics of the timing, of how she's replaced and what this means for an already conservative-leaning court. I'll probably be one of those tomorrow. For now, I mostly feel that I've been sucker-punched in ths stomach and not sure what to make of it all, and just want to sit with that pain and confusion for a moment. What she accomplished and what she represented: her death will be felt by many justice-lovers and progress-makers around the world, I think.

I've been struck by a little bit of Judaica that's been making its way around the internet. The idea is, if the truly holy among us (the term in Judaism is usually a tzaddik) die on the day before Rosh Hashannah. They've lived out nearly every moment of each year that's appointed to them. I think it's tied to a midrash that Moses died in the day before a Rosh Hashannah. Here's the thing, though. I've not actually read any news articles arout when she died, and I didn't discover the news until late last night. If she died after sunset, she actually died on Rosh Hashannah, so she would have lived into the new year but been deprived of pretty much the whole thing: the exact opposite of being blessed to live out a full last year.

I don't know which is actually true, but the possibility has me thinking about how incomplete the world feels. Even with all the progress we've made so far, the current moment, as a liberal, is about the frustration of unrealized righteousness, the gaping hole between where we feel we could (and should) be and where we actually are. If she died after sunset on Rosh Hashannah, it feels like we were robbed somehow, even more than we were generally, denied another year of Justice Ginsburg working among us. But that seems fitting even as it's tragic and obviously practically awful, because she worked in justice. That's about recognizing where the world's gone wrong and collectively saying it needs to be fixed, applying some sort of punishment, preventing the bad actor from doing that in the future, maybe even righting a wrong. Justice is only needed in an imperfect world. God knows we live in one. And if Justice Ginsburg's life was incomplete, too, that seems fitting.

Of course all lives are, but being so close to the line makes me think about both possibilities, and maybe sitting with that idea is one way to honor all the work she did. It's the best I can manage just now, at any rate.