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An Eulogy for 5781

The Jewish High Holidays are celebrated each September- just as the time that East Coast hot humid summer air breaks and the cleaner, cooler climate sets  in, the smell of freshness in the environment fills our lungs. Tonight marks the top of Rosh Hashana,  the start of a 10 day period dedicated to reflection, But as I look back to this past year, in the Hebrew calendar 5781 or Christian calendar September 2021- my thoughts are heavy and feels like I am writing a Eulogy for the year that has expired.  The experience is not unlike a funeral for a difficult relative that brought  complications and you wish you could shake them off- but you can’t because they are family and like it or not- you had to figure out how to deal with their problems.   So now that we are essentially burying 5781- I am reflecting back to our relationship. As I think about this complicated being, while admittedly happy I don’t need to deal with their drama anymore- I am also a bit mournful as I am struck by the impact this being has on me and society as a whole.   Although somewhat relieved to be saying our final goodbye by burying this year 6 feet under- metaphorically of course- my memories dance between  good riddance and mourning.  Cheering from The Wizard of Oz’s “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”, the resilience of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”  and the laid back- there is not else to do but “Ob-La-De, Ob-La-Da  Life Goes On” attitude of the Beatles’ song- are the variety of mixed emotions that 5781 impresses on us all.


5781’s complicated personality was quite mischievous- it would play a trick and test our response. It was as though the Norse God Loki- God of Mischief- ruled our year to drop its little tricks, step back, and amuse in the ensuing chaos. It’s probably no coincidence that Disney + released the popular show Loki this year- as 5781 was probably kicking back on the couch with a bowl of popcorn- nodding enthusiastically with empathy during the chaotic themes of each episode.  In real life- we didn’t respond well to this year’s tricks. 5781 left us divided when we should be coming together.   


5781 dropped down the Delta variant in one hand and in the other hand- dropped us the cure via vaccine- then sat back with its giant bowl of popcorn to watch the show play out.  And boy- it was and continues to be one heck of an episode.   5781 gave us an end to the Afghanistan war- but then reintroduced the Taliban as a plot twist to see what we would do.  5781 dished a ridiculously written law to prevent abortion access in Texas- then handed Supreme Court an opportunity to put an end to this.  5781 gave us elected school boards and invited “Karens” to the meetings.  5781 gave us fair US elections to bring in new leadership- but then hosted the Jan 6 rave.  5781 dried out and burned down our Western forests, but then drenched and flooded the eastern landscape. 


So now this is how this year tests all of us.  How do we respond? This is where the complex side of 5781 kicks in- and makes us consider how we will get through this all. 


Israel’s national anthem is titled Hatikvah- which means “Hope”. The melody is slow and rather mournful, but when sung especially in union, there is a tremendous amount of strength and empowerment in its foreign sounds and melody.  It’s like a secret code reminding us that together we will rise- because even when things seem like rock bottom- there is always Hope.   Although written in the late 19th century- it really does reflect the attitude of Jewish people through centuries.  Through dozens of wars, genocide, antisemitism, and various other obstacles the population has had to ensue- the voices and bodies come together to generate strength.  This message extends outside of the Jewish community- to all. How we respond to the lasting legacy of 5781 is up to us.  Will we have Hatikvah, will we have hope? Will we have resilience and find solutions to bring us together for a better future?


The passing of 5781 leaves a tremendous responsibility on how we can be better selves. How can we unite on common challenges when we feel so divided on how to approach the resolution. As we say our final goodbye to this year, will it rest in peace? Will we use these memories to build our strength, remember Hope, and together approach the legacy this year has left for us?  Resilience, strength, Hatikvah. The end of an era- Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.  Empower yourself as you Will Survive.  And when all feels lost remember that Ob-La-Di, Ob La Da  Life Goes On.


Good bye 5781. You will be hard to forget and maybe even harder to let go.


Shari Stern is a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant who resides in the Philadelphia Area. Her website is with links to follow/more information.


References in this article:

"Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" is a song in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.It was composed by Harold Arlen, with the lyrics written by E. Y. Harburg


"I Will Survive" is a song first performed by American singer Gloria Gaynor, released in October 1978. It was written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris


"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1968 double album The Beatles (also known as "the White Album"). It was written by Paul McCartney[4][5][6] and credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership.


Loki is an American television series created by Michael Waldron for the streaming service Disney+, based on Marvel Comics featuring the character of the same name. Waldron serves as head writer, with Kate Herron directing for the first season.

"Hatikvah" is a 19th-century Jewish poem and the national anthem of Israel. Its lyrics are adapted from a poem by Naftali Herz Imber.

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