The countdown starts… ten weeks until Rosh Hashana. We know this by the Haftorah cycle that the Rabbis put in place. First, we are faced with three Shabbatot of rebuke, starting with the book of Jeremiah. The Sages characterize Jeremiah as “a book of destruction.” We read of the image of a boiling pot, representative of the impending doom of the Temple in Jerusalem. Most commentaries focus their debate around the question of hope—is there time for redemption?
Jen Maxfield, Emmy Award-winning Journalist for NBC New York, writes in her new book More After The Break about the process of breaking news. Her job is to produce 90-second soundbites of often destructive stories: Murders, natural catastrophes, and terrorist acts within the Greater New York area.
During the last two years of COVID, as Jen reported from home, she asked herself, “What happened to those people who granted me access in their homes during their most vulnerable times?” Maxfield explains that publicizing grief, pain, and injustice can lead to introspection, change, and justice. She writes, “The moral ambiguity of what I do for a living only comes out on the positive side if the stories I write have the same ripple effect on you they have had on me.” The three weeks before Tisha B’Av and the ten weeks leading to Rosh Hashana are a morally ambiguous time. We are inundated with world, community, and family news. What do we with this information that can inspire introspection and change the compass of our soul? As we begin this journey together, may we be reminded of Jeremiah’s boiling pot: Let the temperature cool, a changing moral ambiguity to moral clarity.