The below piece was pro­duced as a part of a Passover sup­ple­ment for Dwelling in a Time of Plagues in response to the idea of lib­er­a­tion from the plague of grief and loss.

In the unbound anthol­o­gy of things hap­pen­ing under the Amer­i­can sun, we live in a chap­ter that might well be titled Grief and Loss

For many, such gloom would have been — say, five years ago — a sur­prise. To Amer­i­can Jews, in par­tic­u­lar, the approach of dan­ger has for a long time seemed unlike­ly. Would some transat­lantic mil­i­tary (as a wise per­son put it) step the Ocean and crush us at a blow?” No. Dan­gers to this coun­try, said Abe Lin­coln (that wise per­son), do not come from abroad.

And yet, here we are, in the tri­al of at least many decades. Of course, Covid-19 did arrive from else­where. But, read today’s chap­ter of loss and you’ll see some­thing fur­ther. We our­selves — Amer­i­cans — are its author. Of all the devel­oped world, we failed the most. Cru­el­ty, incom­pe­tence, and self­ish­ness. Lies and extrem­ism. These are every­where. And, of course, it’s not just the virus that brings us grief and loss. I should say that some­one in my extend­ed fam­i­ly died attached to a ven­ti­la­tor; even per­son­al­ly, I still feel the effects (headaches, joint pain) of my luck­i­ly mild clash with that spiked microbe. But a fur­ther loss I feel is the QAnon cousins with whom I no longer speak; anoth­er is the loss of faith in so many of my coun­try­men. If dan­ger ever reach us,” said Lin­coln, it must spring up amongst us.”

How do we for­ti­fy against it? I don’t know if we can. But if there is an answer, and I say this as some­one who hasn’t stepped foot in a syn­a­gogue in a long time, it is faith. Faith in rea­son. Faith in one anoth­er. And faith in the moral­i­ty — the com­mit­ment to kind­ness and gen­eros­i­ty — we find in think­ing about G‑d. If (as Lin­coln would have it) the pil­lars of the tem­ple of lib­er­ty have begun to crum­ble away, we must sup­ply their places with oth­er pil­lars, hewn from the quar­ry of benevolence.

I can only speak for myself, and my own fail­ings. Which remain many. But I have tried more than ever to hear this call. 

To down­load the full Passover sup­ple­ment, which includes ten authors and ten artists respond­ing to ten mod­ern plagues, please click here

Dwelling in a Time of Plagues is a Jew­ish cre­ative response to real-world plagues of our time. Col­lec­tive­ly, the com­mis­sions in this con­stel­la­tion of art projects around North Amer­i­ca grap­ple with con­tem­po­rary crises: the glob­al pan­dem­ic, insti­tu­tion­al racism, xeno­pho­bia, ageism, forced iso­la­tion, and the cli­mate cri­sis. Dwelling is gen­er­ous­ly sup­port­ed by CANVAS.

Darin Strauss’s most recent book, The Queen of Tues­day, came out in August 2020 and was a Wash­ing­ton Post best book of the year, among oth­ers. He’s also the author of the best­selling nov­els Chang & Eng, The Real McCoy, More Than It Hurts You, the NBCC-win­ning mem­oir Half a Life, and a best­selling com­ic-book series, Olivia Twist. These have been New York Times Notable Books; and Newsweek, Los Ange­les Times, San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle, Ama­zon, Chica­go Tri­bune and NPR Best Books of the Year, among others. 

The recip­i­ent of a Guggen­heim Fel­low­ship, a Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Award, an Amer­i­can Library award, and numer­ous addi­tion­al prizes, Strauss has been trans­lat­ed into four­teen lan­guages and pub­lished in nine­teen coun­tries. In addi­tion, Darin has col­lab­o­rat­ed on screen­plays with Gary Old­man and Julie Tay­mor, and is a Clin­i­cal Pro­fes­sor of Fic­tion at New York Uni­ver­si­ty. He is cur­rent­ly a final­ist for the Joyce Car­ol Oates Award.