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Timing of Justice Ginsburg’s death holds religious significance

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U. S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

MADISON (WKOW) -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death Friday coincided with the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

"There are legends about what happens if someone does die just before a Jewish New Year," Rabbi Jonathan Biatch said.

Biatch is a rabbi at Temple Beth El in Madison. He found out about Ginsburg's death toward the end of Rosh Hashanah worship Friday evening.

He said sharing the news with his congregation was hard, but there was at least one positive.

"People could have catharsis of some kind together," he said.

In Judaism, Biatch said the belief is God seals the fate of Jews for the coming year during Rosh Hashanah. When someone dies just before the holiday, he said the belief is that person was living for a particular reason.

"They made it through that whole year, so they obviously had something to do that was important enough for God to say, 'This person's writing in the book of life needed to include this full year, nothing short of that year,'" Biatch said.

The rabbi said throughout Ginsburg's 27 years on the Supreme Court, she often used values emphasized in the Hebrew bible to guide her rulings.

"She touched the souls of many people because of where she places her values," he said. "When we talk about the inherent dignity of a person, that's what she was most, I think, concerned with and was able to leave her stamp on the Supreme Court for many, many years in the future."

With much about what comes next still up in the air, Biatch said another Jewish tradition is helping him.

"When someone dies in the Jewish community, we have a custom that we say, 'may their memory be a blessing,'" he said.

Biatch said some are modifying that phrase following Ginsburg's death to say 'may her memory be a revolution.'

Biatch said this motto is an inspiration to build on the work of Ginsburg's judicial rulings to continue working to make others' lives better.

"May those memories of her work with the Court be, indeed, the continuation of the revolution to bring more equality and dignity to members of this country," he said.

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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