Life is for living. Don’t wait. Go out and live it!
As I write this, Aliza and I are still doing the switch from Pesaẖ dishes to ẖametz dishes, even though Pesaẖ ended more than just a day or two ago. True that it’s a big job and we lead busy lives, but that’s not the only reason it takes us so long. Our Pesaẖ involves more than dishes—we have Egyptian bobble head dolls that we use for place cards; props for Had Gadya, the four sons, the ten plagues; Pharoah masks and headdresses; saltwater dishes made by the kids when they were little; a cross-stitched pillowcase with the full Mah Nishtana embroidered by my late mother; Haggadot of all shapes and sizes with meaningful extra inserts that we’ve collected over the years. In short, our Pesaẖ is filled with colour and fun and ridiculous paraphernalia which help us create more memories with the people at our Seder. We cherish Pesaẖ, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the family and friends around us. We’re not in a hurry for it to end.
One Pesaẖ when I was seven years old, I was misbehaving at the Seder table. The hour was very late and my mother sent me up to bed before the Seder was finished. I lay in my bed listening to the guests downstairs singing Adir Hu and Ki Lo Na’eh and I cried myself to sleep, thinking how it would be an entire year before I got to hear again those wonderful songs which were the glorious sounds of Pesaẖ.
Aliza told me that in shul this year on the final morning of Pesaẖ, when our Beth Tzedec Singers and I started singing Adon Olam to the tune of Adir Hu, she got a lump in her throat as she thought of having to wait another year for the return of Pesaẖ.
Her sadness at the end of the festival, though, was different from mine at age seven. At this stage of our adult lives, the anticipation from year to year takes on a much more poignant tone. As I grow older, I realize how fragile we are and how quickly life passes us by. With each passing year and festival, I become devastatingly aware of how precious our time together is and how we must cherish opportunities to be with our loved ones.
I have a similar feeling each autumn as we put away our sukkah decorations (again, a week or two after Sukkot). Each decoration conjures a happy memory, and as we place things in storage boxes for safekeeping, these happy memories become bittersweet. I can’t help but wonder who will still be with us in a year when I next unwrap these baubles.
Perhaps I’m deeply introspective about the value of life because we are now (as I write this) in the weeks of Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron, two more events that further remind me of how fleeting life is. My own parents, both Holocaust survivors, are no longer with me, although I feel their spirit constantly and find myself talking about them so often that Aliza, who never met them, feels she knows them intimately. And as much as I enjoy making mother-in-law jokes, I’m actually very grateful to have in-laws such as mine, two people who personify the adage Carpe Diem, Seize the Day. They’re currently away for a month of travelling, something they do as often as they can because, as they say, you have to live while you can.
They hope to join us this summer when we lead our Musical Journey to England. Interestingly, the trip was completely sold out, and suddenly within a blink of an eye, a couple of families cancelled for medical reasons. I pray for a refuah sheleimah for these would-be travelers, but their cancelling only further emphasizes my point and the motto of my parents-in-law. Life is for living and we have to live while we can.
I hope some of you will join us on our trip. Even if you’ve been there before, you’ve never seen England like this! We have organized so many special moments, and if you ask anyone who’s traveled with us in the past, you’ll be told that it’s laughter and tears with music throughout.
Life is for living. Don’t wait. Go out and live it! Have a wonderful summer.