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Susan Estrich
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As I write this, Jews across the world are preparing for the holiest day of the year: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is the day on which we seek forgiveness for the sins of the past year and ask God to inscribe us and those we love in the book of life. We light candles for those we have lost and say special prayers. It is and always has been a painful holiday for me, and not just because of the fast that begins at sundown.

This year, I will light a candle for my father, who has been gone for more than half of my life, and for my mother, going on seven years, and for my beloved friends Judy and Kath.

Facing those candles each year, a testament to the fragility of life, is itself a lesson in gratitude, in the blessing of good health and family (may the evil eye keep away).

And that great blessing is also my source of guilt.

My mother was an anxious and depressed person. She took to her bed. She was not there for others. She wasted much of her life worrying, bemoaning, reliving her sorrows rather than enjoying what she had. I joke that I inherited those nana genes. But I get up every day. I work three jobs. I give of myself, sometimes to a fault.

I have always believed that it is not in the words of the prayer book but in the way I live my life that I show my faith. I have not been a perfect mother or sister; I was not a perfect daughter. But I know there has never been a day when I did not do the best I could. I have been a loving and generous friend. I have helped more people get jobs than full-time career counselors. I have helped more young people get into the school of their dreams than most college counselors.

I have given my time and my heart to friends and friends of friends and people I met only once. I don't count. I never say no. I am, I think, I know, a very good person.

But I am not such a happy one. I should be happy that my children are off in the world, doing well, strong and independent. I am grateful, but I spend more time feeling lonely, staring at their empty bedrooms and feeling like the best years of my life are behind me than I do counting my blessings.

I lost close friends and my father when they were years younger than I am now, but I spend more time fretting about getting old, about dashed dreams and memories, good and bad, than I do feeling blessed to be as old as I am.

I tell others the story of Lot and his wife, whom God promised to save from Sodom and Gomorrah if only they did not look back. But Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. When my friends relive the past, get caught up in who did what to whom, in what they have lost and what was taken from them, I tell them to remember the lesson of Lot's wife, to look forward and not backward.

And then I find myself crying about the past, about what went wrong and what went right, and mostly what is lost.

I write often about what I know is true: that life is precious, that we must live every day, grateful, loving, cherishing, knowing how lucky we are, celebrating the freedom and comfort that people all over the world will never know. I write this because I believe it.

And on Yom Kippur, I ask God to forgive me for not living that way each day. I ask not for the wisdom to know what is true, but for the grace to live that way, not simply to tell the story of Lot's wife, but to live its lesson.

Happy New Year.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



14 Comments | Post Comment
How do you atone for supporting President Obama? Israel is in grave danger of annihilation and Obama refuses to even meet Prime Minister Netanyahu but has time to be "arm candy" with Whoopi Goldberg on "The View"? Israel is only "one" of our closest allies in the Middle East?

Both Obama and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were asked about the Iranian nuclear situation in separate interviews yesterday. And, both compared Israel's concern over the nuclear program to “noise.” So now we have our president reciting the same talking points as the maniac who has declared that his country's mission is to annihilate Israel.

So, Susan, tonight at sundown, please light an extra candle for the Jews in Israel who have to close their eyes every night and pray that Iran doesn't destroy their country kill them and their children tomorrow. Will you cry when Israel is destroyed and you know that you assisted in that catastrophe by supporting Obama?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Lesley Barnard
Tue Sep 25, 2012 10:59 AM
Re: Lesley Barnard

Well said. You have articulated my thoughts precisely.

Further, anyone and everyone who cast a vote for obama or who will cast a vote for obama are or will be aiders and abettors to the establishment of the Islamic caliphate, to the nuclear arming of Iran (because obama notwithstanding his bald faced lies will let that happen) to the persecution and murder of coptic christians and jews all accross the middle east, to the abandonment of the protection of US interests abroad, to the abandonment of our allies and the giving of aid and support to our enemies who would kill us.

That is fact, undeniable and indisputable.

Comment: #2
Posted by: joseph wright
Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:41 PM
You are such an interesting person. I like you. We'll never meet each other, but just know I think you would be an awesome friend. And don't let those two jerks get to you.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Jake
Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:03 PM
"...look forward and not backward'. Sounds familiar!
Comment: #4
Posted by: Oldtimer
Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:44 AM
There is a part of life beyond the tussle of politics. I am glad that Ms. Estrich chose to share it. It reminds us that humans are spiritual beings and belong to a larger community.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Cowboy Jay
Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:18 AM
I could have written this myself, about myself. Happy New Year, Professor. Don't be so hard on yourself, and strive this year to learn to enjoy your blessings a little more, with a little less guilt.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Fred Ascher
Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:02 PM
Question - Why are jews anti-Israel? They vote liberal, right?
Comment: #7
Posted by: Oldtimer
Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:34 AM
Blessings on you for the New Year, Susan -- joy follows soon after atonement.
Comment: #8
Posted by: John W. Anthony
Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:39 AM
Joeesph and Leslie you two seem like the type to know that welfare dosen't work. Dosen't the same concept apply overseas as well? By giving aid to Israel we are just putting them on welfare and making them "parasites" like Joe puts it. Also we give 3 billion in aid to Israel and 12 billion to their enemies. We clearly aren't doing them any favors with our money. Also, in giving them that money we take away part of their sovreinty and tell them what to do. They have to ask our permission to build houses in East Jerusalem. The only pro-Israel stance is to cut off foreign aid to all nations and get out of the nation building industry. We have enough problems here at home. We can be their ally without being their babysitter.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:29 PM
Re: Chris McCoy
generally when an argument is so patently flawed and unsustaibable the premise upon which it is built is the first thing to be questioned.
Unlike the money, phones and other entitlements fed to our domestic parasites by way of welfare in order to keep them enslaved to the Democratic party and to buy their votes and for which there is no longer any tangible return for the US by way of work requirement, the aid given to Israel is simply not wefare: It is at that point that your argument fails and no more need be said.
However, unlike the welfare handed out to the parasites here, which simply breeds more and more entitlement seeking parasites that will suck the economy dry, the aid by way of cash or military hardware given to an ally in a hosite part of the world goes directly to securing US foreign interests.
On this point I will agree. One has to ask, why, why, why obama (the foreign policy amateur and catastrophic failure) is handing billions of our tax dollars, which will be used to fund and to enable further hatred of the US and to fund further attacks upon us and upon Israel, to the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and given the direct pesonal family connections SoS Clinton's aide has with that terrorist entity, God knows where else and how much?
Perhaps Estrich and her fellow obama voting Islamic terror enablers asked themselves that very question when lighting their candles.
On second though likely they did not. After all, on all the objective evidence the Democratic Party has become the diety for many who consider themselves Jewish with its America hating progressivism being one of its rituals.
Comment: #10
Posted by: joseph wright
Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:12 PM
But Obama really hasen't done much to change foreign policy from the Bush era. Thats the problem I have with him, but if you think Bush did a good job, but Obama is bungling it, well that can't be the case. BO has continued the mountains of foreign aid with even more going to Israel than Bush did. He's continued all of Bush's wars, all his surveilance and kill programs. I'm not seeing how Bush and Obama are any different in a lot of areas. Here at home BO is keeping that same old bank bailout top down philosophy. Bailing and QE money is going straight to banks. My biggest problem with BO is that he is acting like Bush, not that he went off and did his own thing and it failed. He continued what was failing and put it on steroids.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:35 PM
Joe, you're a free market capitalist. I can tell because you have to be to hate BO so much. I don't have to convince you that infusing "free money" into a free market is a bad thing and screws up everything on a microeconomic level. Thinking otherwise is Obama-thinking. Pumping aid money into Israel is no different. And the money comes with all sorts of strings that hurt their economy even more. And furthermore we give them war money and their enemies more war money which makes them spend even more on the military instead of on their people. Foreign and and intervention have failed on just about every level. We are treating Israel like a kindergardeners pet instead of a free nation.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Sep 27, 2012 5:40 PM
@Chris, why are you conflating financial support to Israel with keeping our long-held promises of moral support and international advocacy toward Israel and her people? Until President Obama, the United States has appeared to the world as a strength against those who express harm to Israel.

We give financial aid to many countries which dislike us and for which we would not engage militarily. Yet, in a region as important to our own economy as the Middle East and after decades of public and private support for Israel, this Administration has openly criticized our strongest ally in the region and expressed support for the positions of the countries who would like to destroy Israel and have Jews wiped off the planet. Only in Obama's alternative universe does apologizing for keeping our pledges of support to Israel mean that the Jihadist terrorists will lay down their weapons and like the United States. Otherwise, they see him as a weak pushover and have become emboldened in their efforts to isolate and destroy Israel. Yet Obama can't even find an hour to meet with Netanyahu but he goes on the view to market himself as "eye candy"!
Comment: #13
Posted by: Lesley Barnard
Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:05 PM
Lesley, I'm in no way defending anything BO has done and I think he's run an awful administration and foreign policy. I'm arguing that our continued presence in this region does more harm than good. We can be allys with other nations while at the same time staying our of their bussiness and letting them have their soveinty. If Israel is attacked, then we step in as defenders. Anything else and we are the aggressors.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:27 AM
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