As you have probably heard by now, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the hospital today, recovering from a fall that fractured three of her ribs.
RBG is more than just a person at this point: she has morphed into a symbol. Of course, there is the millennial-friendly “Notorious RBG” iconography, which basically makes her the court’s equivalent of Beyonce. But she is much, much more than just a symbol — through her whole life, she has stood up for women’s rights and equal treatment under law, with fierce determination and a rigorous intellect wed to empathy.
But as superhuman as she seems, Ginsburg is, of course, human. Being human comes with its flaws — mortality among them — but her humanity is her superpower, as she exemplifies menschiness through her intellect and determination to end discrimination by law.
That’s why progressives are feeling so nervous and worried about her health, and some are going so far as to offer their own ribs. Ginsburg is the liberal lynchpin of the current court, and the idea of her being out of commission — to say nothing of in pain — is horrifying for many of us.
I’m just going to come out and say this: I’m not a doctor. I do know that broken ribs are painful and take a while to heal. I also know that hospitals pose dangers of alternate infections to the already-vulnerable. RBG is 85 years old, so this is scary. So what do we do with this knowledge?
In Judaism, we ask for God to make a direct intervention in our lives when we pray for healing in the Mi Sheberakh, asking for “refuah shleimah,” complete healing. But, as a skeptic might ask: What can prayer accomplish in an era of modern medicine?
Jewish scholar Ismar Schorsch of the Jewish Theological Seminary says that, while prayer may not correct a medical problem, it does make a tremendous difference in the pray-er’s state of mind: “Prayer yields the insight that makes the ephemeral endurable.”
And so, at home or in shul, we can pray to heal our woman of valor, and to heal our nation. We can pray with our words and hearts for Justice Ginsburg’s speedy and complete recovery.
And we can also pray with our feet: There will be more than 900 rallies across the country at 5 p.m. tonight in support of the principle that nobody — including the president of this great nation — is above the law. With the sudden turbulence of just-named Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker replacing Rod Rosenstein as the overseer of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the President, the president seems to be actively undercutting the independence of the investigation.
Trump putting himself above the law is something that should offend every American. RBG is a lifelong believer in the power of law — and that we all are (and all should be) equal under law.
As one astute friend of a friend commented on Facebook, “If we expect [RBG] to fight her way back to the bench (and we do), then there is no f*cking excuse for all of us not to be in the streets at 5 today.”
See you there.