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Trump is Guilty, JLo Cancels Tour, and I’m Getting Ready for Shabbat

Just as we click on the crummy news on our smart phones all day, on Shabbat we mentally click in search of blessings, and we continue that habit during the week.
[additional-authors]
May 31, 2024
Brandon Bell/Getty Images; tomertu/Getty Images; Paul Morigi/Getty Images

I wish I hadn’t read Peggy Noonan’s brilliant essay in The Wall Street Journal about how “we are starting to enjoy hatred” and how “estrangement has become alluring in the age of Biden and Trump.”

It reminded me of the divisive and cynical times we’re living through. We’ve been losing trust in our institutions, from the media to Congress to academia to politicians to our justice system. Democrats I know who hate Trump admit he probably would not have been prosecuted had he been a Democrat. That erosion of trust, regardless of who we vote for, is not good for our country. All it does is encourage retaliation and escalation. We can expect the “estrangement” Noonan wrote about to only get worse.

Meanwhile, our venerable drama queen Jennifer Lopez just announced she is cancelling her tour and that she is “completely heartsick and devastated” about letting her fans down. No mention that tickets sales were in the toilet.

But there’s more to life than Trump and Jlo.

At the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture yesterday at UCLA, author and psychologist Stephen Pinker gave a talk on “Rationality.” Among the many things he shared, the one I can’t get out of my head is how the media give us a distorted picture of reality.

Being a child of the 60s who remembers the horror of the Vietnam War, he could never have imagined a day, for example, when “Vietnam has been at peace for nearly 50 years.” That reality will never make it to the news, certainly not when it must compete with the Trump verdict or the Gaza war.

Pinker listed other items we’re not likely to see in our news feed, like the extraordinary reduction of famine throughout the world.

Now, as I prepare to head off for one of my choice activities—speaking to the elderly at a senior home– I’m wondering what I should talk about. Should I weigh in on the Trump verdict? The erosion of trust in our institutions? The alarming rise in antisemitism? The war in Gaza and the hostages? The reduction in world hunger? JLo’s angst?

I’ll figure it out when I get there, but my hunch is that I’ll end up sharing a few thoughts about Shabbat.

For thousands of years, I will tell them, the Jews learned the art of swimming in bad news during the week but taking a break on the holy Shabbat.

That sacred break has sustained us, kept us sane, week after week, century after century.

The Shabbat break rejuvenates us by inviting us to contemplate timeless thoughts. Among those thoughts, perhaps the ultimate is the simple art of gratitude—looking around us to find the blessings that surround us.

Just as we click on the crummy news on our smart phones all day, on Shabbat we mentally click in search of those blessings, and we continue that habit during the week.

Even in these days of estrangement, when some of us are starting to “enjoy hatred,” Shabbat rescues us by reminding us that what really nourishes our soul is to enjoy not hate but love and human connection.

It reminds us to be grateful that we have things to love in the first place, even if it’s just peace in Vietnam.

Shabbat shalom.

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