• Ronnie Dunetz

What a Terrible Year that was…but was it really?



At Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year of 5781, September 18, 2020, I pause and reflect about this past year: what an awful and terrible year that was! I barely remember our lives of 8 months ago, it seems like 8 years. The world has moved, has catapulted into a bad place, a challenging place, uncertainty abides, wherever you go you just don't know anything it seems…


But on the other hand...


On the other hand, it is never possible to say such a thing, it seems to me, because in every "blow" on receives in life there seems to be an "anti-blow", seen or not, for every "now" there is an "after."

In Hebrew, the word "year" has two meanings: the first is connected to the idea of "change", to do things differently, with the second meaning being associated with "memorization", that is, doing things for a second time, to repeat the same thing again.


In every change there is something new, but there is also something that gets repeated, something that was. It is never a clear and complete cut. Past-present-future, I begin to doubt this whole division of time, where exactly does one begin and the other die? Maybe we just think things come and go, but it is only a paradigm that makes us think this is so?


This year, my mother passed away, at the age of 91. I miss her, this is the first Rosh Hashanah in my world that my parents are not here. I have never lived in a world like this. And on the other hand, I am so thankful that she is not here, because after a major stroke, dementia and other curses of this kind, what meaning was there in her life? What did she have to get up for in the morning?

My father passed away last year. I finished the Jewish custom of saying "Kaddish"- the memorial prayer- for my father for 11 months, and a few days later I started it again for my mother. Thus, my father "passed-on", right? But has he really? There is not a day that I do not "encounter" him in some way, fashion or memory, something that reminds me, his story, his legacy. He is within me, in a very hard-to-define way, at all times. Thanks to his writing spirit and skills I am here writing this post. So where is the "past" and where is the "present"?

This year, it was quite impossible to make a decent living. However, on the other hand, I wrote two books, one in Hebrew and one in English, launched a new website and jumped full scale into the fascinating world of "Harvesting the Wisdom of Age". This year, then, for me, was both "awful" and "prolific"- they can and do exist together.

In this cycle of "change" and "repetition", we lead our lives. At times we may be more aware, at other times not at all. It seems to me that our biggest challenge is not to "break out of the comfort zone," to use that trite phrase, but to play with that "comfort zone" a little. Teach it that we all have places that need change, but not to interfere with other places that are best off repeating.

Every year we get another chance for a fresh start. That's why I love this holiday of Rosh Hashana, it is repeated every year: time to make your changes and repeat the rest. Yes, there is so much to get up in the morning for. Virus or no virus, we keep moving, past, present, and future.


Wishing us all a healthy, because that really does come first, growth, security and prosperity, but let us not forget the things that really make our lives worthwhile: love, family, friends and creating meaning in our lives - Happy New Year!

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