It’s time to take stock.
The snow is gone, the broken trees are beginning to mend, my lawn is finally turning green and I’m getting ready to plant my garden. Maybe THIS year, we’ll have squash for Sukkot. Maybe.
The cloud of winter is finally lifting and, with it, an emotional blanket that has covered blessings too numerous to count. It’s time to take stock: Amazing parents (I am blessed to have my super-mom gently (ahem) nudging me along), who struggled to raise me and my siblings with a strong Jewish identity that included four wondrous summers at Camp Ramah; a network of friends through USY that I am still close with today; and the opportunity to spend insightful years at universities in New York, Jerusalem, Los Angeles and Boston. I have an amazing spouse, four outstanding children—two of whom are married and a third who will be shortly—and by the time this article arrives in your homes I will, with God’s help, enter the world of grandparenthood. My family has played leadership roles, and we have been part of the landscape of Toronto synagogue life from the Junction Shul on Mariah Street, up the Bathurst corridor, touching every movement and being part of many of our kehillot kedoshot, our sacred communities. I am blessed to be the Executive Director at one of the most dynamic congregations in the diaspora, following in the footsteps of fine and dedicated communal professionals. My life has been a basket of brakhot, of blessings, and most days I feel that I should wake up and be saying Shehechiyanu—“Thank you God, for bringing me to this day”.
As a child, I remember that whenever something good would happen in our house, my mom would put money in the pushka. When my dad escaped injury in a car accident, when the weather was so bad that my parents were worried my brother would be stranded in the snow, but came home safe, my mother put money in the pushka; she gave a little tzedakah and said “thank you”. Today, I have several tzedakah boxes in my house and in my office, where I can give a little tzedekah, put aside some of what I have to help others who have less, and say “thank you” for the blessings in my life.
In our fast-paced and hectic world, it is easy to miss or take blessings for granted. We zoom past the signposts that say “you made it!” or “you are okay”. It is difficult to slow down or stop long enough to appreciate our good fortune. We don’t give ourselves the chance to reflect, to forge a memory, before moving the bar, skipping the joy and passing on the appreciation for the achievements and blessings.
Though we can travel great distances in very little time and overcome enormous technological challenges, our memories become a blur. Nowadays, it seems that the only place we have for memories is on external hard drives, outside of our brains. It is difficult to recall what life was like without a personal computer, a personal telephone and more personal identification numbers than fingers and toes. We are losing the memory and the appreciation for the sacrifices that were taken to bring us to today.
This summer, as we embrace each other around our picnic tables or BBQs, at weddings or other smahot, let’s remember to keep our eyes wide open and recognize the blessings of our lives. Let’s enjoy every ray of sunshine and every drop of rain. Let’s enjoy being part of a community that surrounds us and will be here for us. Remember to hug the kids, the spouse and the friends, and to be kind to ourselves. Remember to honour our achievements and celebrate successes large or small. Give a little tzedakah and give thanks for where we are.
As Beth Tzedec approaches its 60th anniversary, let’s enjoy each other and make wonderful memories here at shul and in our own homes. Let’s celebrate a Shabbat
dinner with friends and recognize the brakhot in our lives by taking pause, stepping back and really seeing what has and is going on. Stop, ‘smell the roses’ and be truly thankful for the rain.
Enjoy the privilege to make every day a celebration of life; shehechiyanu, v’kiemanu, v’higianu lazman hazeh! “Yesterday is but a memory, Tomorrow an uncharted course, So live today so it will be a memory without remorse.” —Edgar Cayce.