Let me explain. On Thursday afternoon, I got an email telling me that one of my idols had been hospitalized. Debbie Friedman, as you can tell from my previous post, is really the reason that I find myself here today working for Kveller. Her music inspired me and helped me connect to Judaism, so much so that I made being a “professional Jew” my career.
I wrote something about Debbie on Friday, talking about my thoughts and prayers for her health as we went into Shabbat. By Sunday morning we learned that she had passed away. I found myself surprisingly paralyzed by this, and I sat at my computer, watching tribute videos, online memorial services, and later the online stream of Debbie’s funeral. Since then, the only songs in my head have been Debbie’s. I’ve been wanting to respond to emails using lyrics from her songs (which often is far from appropriate!) I think what I’m looking for is an outlet for my grief—and the level of grief has surprised me.
Then today I read a post by another blogger on Kveller, who explained that there was a part of my original post that upset her. I used the word “hate”. The context was that some people love Debbie, some hate her, and others don’t know who she is. But then the rest of my piece went on to illustrate that I am undoubtedly a lover of Debbie’s music, her teachings, and her personal impact on Judaism. This other blogger said that to her, hate is a four-letter word that really should never be used. She likened it to the s-word. And when her 5-year-old son used that word many years ago, she washed his mouth out with soap.
After reading her post, I felt like that’s what she’d done to me. And I’m 31. It was as if my beautiful post, which I wrote to honor Debbie, had been turned inside out.
So, okay. I admit it. Hate was too strong a word to use here. I even think that it’s valid to count it as a four-letter word. And maybe I’ll take this teachable moment (thanks Renee) and actually try to cut it from my vocabulary. But I don’t want anyone to think that I would ever use that word in terms of my feelings about Debbie. Let’s make it perfectly clear (in case I haven’t already, three times over): I love Debbie Friedman, and will always count her and her music among the factors that put me on this career and life path.
Thank you Debbie. I didn’t expect for you to provide me with another teachable moment so soon—but it seems the power of your music is just what I thought—amazing.