If you’re anything like me — or like the rest of humanity — it’s been a long year. Rosh Hashana is all about reflecting on the past year, and beginning a new one with
the resolve to be our best selves and do better for humanity. But it’s hard to celebrate new beginnings when we’re still not able to meet in person, and when we’re still dealing with a deadly pandemic. And it’s hard to be our best selves when we’re focused on navigating the new normal.
So if you’re anything like me, one of the things you’ve done this past year is to binge watch TV. One of my favorite Netflix binge programs has been Schitt’s Creek. So let me tell you how Schitt’s Creek inspires me to think about Rosh Hashana at this moment in time.
Schitt’s Creek is about the self-absorbed, filthy-rich Rose family — Johnny and Moira, and their adult children David and Alexis. Johnny is Jewish, by the way, and the kids have been partly raised Jewish. The Rose family suddenly loses all their money. The only asset they have left is a town they bought as a joke because it’s called Schitt’s Creek. Like many Jews throughout history, they go into metaphorical exile and move into adjoining rooms at a fleabag hotel.
I won’t spoil the show if you haven’t seen it, but the story arc is simple: these self-absorbed, obnoxious people become closer as a family, and they all become better people. Like exiled Jews throughout history, they have to rebuild their lives — and they find out that they’re more resourceful than they thought.
We’re all kind of in exile right now — although hopefully near the end of it! The pandemic came on very suddenly, just like the Rose’s sudden loss of their fortune. One day we’re living our lives, and suddenly, we all get exiled to our homes. Better than a fleabag hotel, but still a jarring new normal.
It can be hard to think about typical Rosh Hashana issues like self-examination and repentance when a lot of us are still trying to negotiate everyday changes. Sometimes it feels like there’s pressure on us to take advantage of the pandemic to live our best lives — whatever that means. When Moira Rose first went into her hotel room exile, she spent part of the first few days locked in her closet because she just couldn’t even! I don’t know about you, but I felt that way sometimes this year too.
But here’s the thing about Schitt’s Creek — everyone changes, but no one completely changes. They’re still pretty self-absorbed — except now, they’ve also grown some empathy. At the beginning of the show, Moira and Johnny can’t even remember their Alexis’ middle name. They somehow have no idea that Alexis didn’t graduate from high school — even though they were at her graduation. Towards the end of the show, Alexis is furious when her dad scares off a creepy guy who wants to date her. Johnny apologizes and tells her that he wasn’t present enough in her life before, and that now he wants to make up for that. And by the end of the show, the Roses all find ways to contribute to the community that they used to see as a prison. Moira’s on the city council, David opens a store; Alexis organizes a town festival for singles. Thanks to the Rose family, things are just a little bit better.
So maybe that’s the Rosh Hashana lesson as we come out of our metaphorical exile. We don’t need to be living our best lives. That’s an unrealistic expectation. We don’t have to be simply the best — we just have to do our best. We can ask ourselves what we learned from the last few years, and how we helped others — and how we can continue to grow and do better no matter where our story arcs take us. L’shana Tova, friends, and remember, we Jews know how to handle this exile thing.