From the Newsletter | Degrees of Evil—and Joy—in 2023

By | Dec 22, 2023

On the evening of October 7, I was stuck in southbound traffic on the Richmond Bridge with my family coming back from a pleasant day in Marin County, California. Despairing of making it to in-person Simchat Torah services in time, we turned on my phone, which had been off all day for Shabbat, and joined virtual services in progress at a synagogue in Los Angeles. 

Traditionally, Simchat Torah is celebrated with several rounds of joyous dancing with a Torah scroll. But even over zoom, the mood seemed off. Before long, the rabbi encouraged everyone to try to hold some joy, “despite the devastating news” out of Israel. My heart sank. Then she read a few lines of “A Man Doesn’t Have Time in His Life” by Yehuda Amichai, which I will forevermore associate with that date:

A man doesn’t have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn’t have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
was wrong about that.

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.

(Read the full poem here.)

With a deep sense of foreboding and our baby asleep in the back seat, my partner and I checked the news.

It feels as though years and years of history have happened in 2023, and we’ve needed to “hate and forgive and remember and forget, to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest” with dizzying rapidity. Surveying Moment’s most popular stories from 2023 is no different—each piece seems to mark its own epoch. 

Our most-read article of 2023, “Degrees of Evil,” was written by Fania Oz-Salzberger, one of our foremost contributors from Israel, a few short days after Hamas’s attack on Southern Israel. In the year prior, her dispatches had focused on Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul—in fact, two of her previous columns, “Friends of Israel, Be Very Afraid” from February and “Will the Third Temple Survive its 75th Year?” from March, were our fourth and fifth most popular stories, respectively. It’s easy to forget how contentious that time was.

Our second most read story of 2023 was one I wrote about Clay Clark’s ReAwaken America Tour. These traveling conferences represent a fusion of Christian Nationalism, Q-Anon conspiracy, election denial, vaccine denial and Trumpism. They are a vanguard of the culture war, and frankly, it was pretty frightening to learn about how closely connected the former president and presumptive 2024 Republican nominee is to people who avowedly believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is actually a mix of Jeffrey Epstein’s DNA and nanotechnology. (As just one example, Trump’s son, Eric, is one of the most prominent speakers). We published the story in May, but the conferences continue and the article remains achingly relevant.

Our third most read story is a welcome relief—this feel-good interview with Max Weinberg, longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen, follows Weinberg’s Jewish journey from playing bar mitzvahs in Newark, New Jersey, to the heights of global success. The interview—by Moment Editor-in-Chief Nadine Epstein—blew up on social media in January.

A person doesn’t have time in her life to have time for everything—and a reader doesn’t have time to read everything. We at Moment are grateful you’ve spent some of that time with us this year, and we’re looking forward to sending more content your way in 2024, whatever it brings.

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