The weather continues to keep those of us wishing for warmth and sunshine in a quandary. As I write, the sun is shining and I love it, but I know the forecast has us contemplating dreary, rainy days. So what, life is beautiful. Enjoy it. Be grateful for it. Thank God for everyday you wake up and can smell the coffee brewing, watch animals playing (and I am NOT an animal person), and see people smiling.
Upcoming Worship and Events:
Last week we observed Yom Hashoah—Holocaust Remembrance. What a memorable service it was for all in attendance. This week events take place in Akron and in Cleveland to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut—Israel Independence Day. Consider attending a celebration.
Next Friday Night (May 9) we have a regular Tot Shabbat at 7:00PM and Shabbat Worship at 7:45PM.
The following weekend (May 16) we observe our Double Chai, our 36th Temple Anniversary. Join us and give thanks.
Torah Time: The portion this week is Emor. In includes Chapter 21-24 of the Book of Leviticus. Glance at it. For us the most important part is Chapter 23, which lists our Biblical Holiday Calendar.
As usual, I want to diverge to discuss a bit of our tradition.
Presently, we are in the middle of the Omer, the count-up of the sheaves leading to the holiday of Shavuout. (I label it count-up as we count Omer Day One, Two etc.) We began this count-up on the second night of Passover. Now that is a very important point to remember in the argument I am about to make.
We carry on a tradition of eating matzah for seven days, if liberal Jews, and eight days, if we continue the historic tradition for those living outside of Israel. Ah, but in Israel, in the land, unlike here, there is only one Seder. The second night is a regular mid-holiday night. In Israel, remembering ‘you’ were symbolically a slave in Egypt and were freed by God is a one night remembrance. The next night, you go from the negative of slavery to the positive of looking ahead to entering our eternal covenant with God.
The Bible reflects over and over on the anxiety of the freed Israelites and their backsliding. It spends little space speaking of the joy that had to be felt by those pilgrims as they crossed the wilderness knowing the reward of their own land was on the other side of the journey.
During the Omer we look forward daily to being one step closer to the eternality of the Sinai Moment. That instance, in time, was a frightening but exhilarating act that gave our people a purpose. Those wilderness travels similarly were replete with the joy of families bonding and knowing they would enjoy the wonder of being a free people in a land of their own. They were free and living with their families in an emotionally more positive way. Of course, they reacted negatively at times, don’t we? Of course they were fearful at times, aren’t we? Of course they wondered if the future would be as good as they hoped it would be, don’t we?
With that preliminary historical review, I now want to focus on us. Most of us do not observe a traditional Passover and surely we do not count the Omer. But like our predecessors, we do have similar anxieties, fears, questions, hopes dreams, and goals.
After forty years in the Rabbinate I have seen far too many people mire themselves in the past. Of course, we can never forget. Why else would we observe a Seder to remember we once were slaves? But to wallow in losses, in missed opportunities, in mistakes etc. does not allow life to be lived focused on a positive future. And that is what I believe we should be doing to the greatest extent possible.
I know what it is like to leave a community friends and family behind. I know what it is like to lose a beloved spouse. I know what it is like to accomplish less than I once dreamed of achieving. And so do most of you who are over 50.
But it does not matter what age you are today. You have the gift of meeting new people, setting new goals, experiencing new places, learning new technology and building new and beautiful relationships. In order to thrive you have to remember the past but it is imperative to focus on today and what this moment can create for your future. I believe that is what God wants from us. Now I wish I could tell you that is easy. It is not.
We have to fight our inner fears. We have to challenge ourselves to learn. And we have to overcome our anxiety and dislike of change. If we can wrestle with ourselves and overcome than each of us can create a more meaningful future no matter what our failures, our losses and our limits.
Friends, life is frightening and beautiful simultaneously. The more we beat down our personal demons, the more we will smile, laugh, love, create, grow etc. etc. The more glorious sunshine we will view on awakening every day!
Over and over, I grapple with my flaws and rise to my blessings. Join me in living with a positive eye toward the future. Don’t let the proclaimers of tragedy and ever present doom stop you from living as beautiful, meaningful and hopeful a life as you can everyday.
We are counting the Omer up to Sinai, but remember Sinai always exists for us.
Push yourself to laugh even when you want to cry.
Find old friends and new friends to love and don’t let anyone tell you, that you love too quickly.
In short: Dare to be Happy! Only you can make it happen.