How Do I Cope with the News?

Amid natural disasters, white supremacist rallies and more, the importance of staying in dialogue with community.

Increasingly, I feel the need to turn off the news and to step away from social media.  There’s just so much news that isn’t good news.  Natural disasters.  White supremacy.  Antisemitism.  Our president’s approach to healthcare, immigration, and myriad other issues.

How do we cope?  I want to pull the blanket over my head and walk away from it all at times.  And, Judaism reminds me to take care of myself.  It tells me to pause each week for Shabbat – a day of rest – what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called a “sanctuary in time.”  Though I am not traditionally Shabbat observant, the concept of Shabbat reminds me to turn off my TV occasionally, to take time for reflection, to just be.

And Judaism reminds me to stay in dialogue with my community on the issues that are important to me. The ancient rabbis wrote in Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, that one should not separate oneself from community.  And part of the power of community is that it gives us a place for civil discourse, an opportunity to join with others in inquiry and questioning, another very Jewish approach to the world.

So too Judaism reminds me to keep learning and to keep reading.  We are known as “the People of the Book,” and arguably today we are the people of the blog and newspaper.  Our own history has been full of challenges at times: what can we learn by reading about them?  Lots of smart people continue to write about the world today: what can we learn from them?  How can they inspire us?

There’s a time to go under the blanket and rest – to tune the world out for brief moments.  It’s important to breathe.  And yet we must then re-engage by reading, listening, being in conversation.  And then, we must act.  A rabbi in the Talmud makes the case that study leads to action.  We must get out there and do our part to make the world a better place.  Let’s go make some good news.


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