Sometimes the visible world and the real one are so entirely different that it’s hard to make sense of them.
After last weekend’s ridiculous, nasty sleet-and-snowstorm, the week has been glorious. There’s been sun. It’s been warm enough for light jackets. Buds are budding, grass is greening, crocuses are crocking. Every day there’s a little more baby green just above the soil, a few more branches looking ever so slightly pregnant at their tips.
Spring is coming — in fact, spring will be here this week.
On the other side of the world — not as far away as Australia, but still far — there is nightmare. In that faraway place that nurtured so many of our ancestors before it spat them out, people are being bombed, shot, terrorized, driven from their homes by a madman, a foul puffy-faced monster who has managed to put the entire world in great danger because he is insane and has access to nuclear weapons.
(One quotation that’s surfaced, said to be by John McCain, is that Russia is a gas station with nukes. He was prescient, and he seems to have been right.)
How do we put these things together? What do we do?
One thing that we can do, it seems, is to be grateful for what we have, for our luck in being here, for the stability that surrounds us. For the arrival of spring.
Another thing that we can do is to help support the Ukrainians refugees, and the ones who are staying to fight.
If you wish to donate within the Jewish world, you have many choices (and those organizations do not restrict their help to Jews, but give it wherever it is most needed).
All the local federations — the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, and the Jewish Federation of Rockland County — are collecting money for Ukraine and its evacuees. On the national level, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee — perhaps better known the JDC, and more endearingly as the Joint — and HIAS, which began its life as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — both are collecting and distributing funds. All are smart ways to help support the victims of evil.
This is a fraught season for us as Jews. (To be accurate, really there are few entirely unfraught seasons for us as Jews.) Leaving the topsy-turvy carnival of Purim — and the topsy-turvyness of Russia, at least for now, not prevailing, and Ukraine, like Shushan’s Jews, at least for now, not being wiped out, and the way that Putin can masquerade as Haman, because beneath his pallid puffy skin and tiny squinty eyes there is the mass murderer that Haman wished to become, and the supreme topsy-turvyness of Volodymyr Zelensky, the rumpled former comedian and obviously brilliant nonpracticing lawyer, as the man whose charisma and raw courage and sense of timing are changing the world, and how extraordinary is it that he is Jewish? — we are entering the march toward Pesach. Toward liberation.
We can only hope that somehow the world is beginning that march too.
We used to believe what Dr. King told us, that although the arc bent slowly, it did go inexorably in the direction of justice. It’s hard to see that now. But maybe, somehow, things will change. Maybe the experts who say that nothing other than disaster is possible are wrong.
After all, it’s spring.