Saturday, 20 February 2016

My Shabbat Online

My Shabbat morning was strangely schizophrenic today.

I spent the first part logged on to my home synagogue's brand new streaming feature so that I might partake of our weekly Torah study and to watch the Bar Mitzvah of an extremely involved and capable young man. I haven't yet found a synagogue down here in the Southern Home in which I feel entirely comfortable, so the connection via the interwebs is much like wrapping myself in a warm blanket sent from home, especially on Shabbat.

Following services, I switched on the TV and found myself watching the funeral mass for Justice Antonin Scalia. It isn't as though I am enamoured with funerals, nor do I consider myself ghoulish, but I have been struck this week by the tremendous polarization of the Justice and his opinions, and by the outpouring of both tributes and enmity at his passing. I was curious to see how the Washington elites on both sides of the political aisle might come together to honour a man who was nothing if not extremely controversial throughout his career.

Having little to no previous insight into Justice Scalia's personal life, (such is my lot as a passive Canadian observer) I was surprised to discover that one of his sons is a priest and that he was the celebrant at the mass. I was struck by Fr. Scalia's grace and composure as he honoured his father. As someone who has officiated at many funerals, I was rather surprised at his ability to set aside his own grief for the sake of his faith, and the public ease with which he was able to carry out his religious duties. And so...I tweeted the following:

Within seconds, I was inundated with likes, retweets, and discussions. I have been using Twitter for many years now, and I have never before (even in the Rob Ford heyday) had so many people interact with me. Even more stunning, was the fact that most of them were extremely conservative Christians and right-wing Republicans with whom I have very little in common, at least on the surface. (As I write this, the Twitter interactions are still pouring in.)

But I suppose that just by noting something with decency and with a modicum of courtesy, my tweet struck a nerve with others who were watching. It is easy to heckle and criticize, or to praise and dogmatize Justice Scalia for his opinions and his polarizing views, but today he was being remembered as a father and a devoutly religious man by the people who loved and knew him best...his family.

One woman who engaged me in a very respectful conversation wondered whether or not I felt it "emotionally healthy" that the son was presiding over his father's funeral. And while I am not in any way, shape, or form a therapist, I responded that while I had always abdicated the bimah when my family was involved, I had learned over many years that there is no right or wrong way to deal with grief and death. Perhaps the good Father required this ritual as a tangible method of managing his own sorrow? Perhaps his faith was that which enabled him to get through a very rough personal time, and more importantly, who are we to judge? The woman who asked me the initial question, an atheist by description, quietly and humbly acquiesced.

My interaction today with the Twittersphere was enlightening. We all know of the filth and excrement that can and does burrow deep within, but today showed me that while left and right can fundamentally disagree on politics and religion, there are many out there, on both sides, made up of lovely, decent, and caring people. Believe me when I say that I wouldn't want to see an entire court made up of like-minded justices, but today Antonin Scalia was just a man being mourned in a most profound way by his son and the rest of his family. And in one little corner of Twitter, civility reigned for just a brief moment in time.

Not a bad way to observe Shabbat if I do say.

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