Seems to be a synonym for summer, sunshine, and the understandable inability to sit in the office or home when the world outside looks so much nicer, and the year-long fatigue and stress feels so heavy.
Being no different than the common man, I too went on vacation this summer, for a weeklong adventure with my wife and kids. In order to really “shut-down,” I decided years ago to put everything in place….so that my cell would remain off the entire week, and I could take a neder [vow] that I would not look at my email till the vacation would come to it’s inevitable end. I wanted to totally “relax,” and thus become unconnected, if even for just a few days.
Not having to run to respond to calls or messages, one’s mind and heart can actually think about aspects of life that are usually (and perhaps unfortunately) not on the agenda. So, allow me to share one such experience from the above “technology free” escapade.
If you’re not traveling, it’s safe to assume that you see your family each day. And yet, while frequently looking at them, hearing them and even giving them a hug before bed, how many of us actually speak to them?
How many of us actually acknowledge their existence, know what they’re going through, what experiences they endured (for better or for worse) and how they’re feeling (and not just physically)?
On the other hand, take the very same questions and ask them about…your work. I think it’s safe to submit that anything you’re responsible for at your workplace, you know about! If you are not updated on changes or glitches, you would be rather annoyed at yourself or those under you. You are on top of every incoming email,have returned every message in your voice mail, and have an organized schedule to attempt to meet all the objectives and requirements of the job.
So why isn’t that true at home?
Perhaps this known scene, from one of the most known Jewish movies of all time, might be able to shed a bit of light on this quagmire;
Tevye: …Do you love me?
Golde: Do I what?
Tevye: Do you love me?
Golde: Do I love you? With our daughters getting married And this trouble in the town You’re upset, you’re worn out Go inside, go lie down! Maybe it’s indigestion
Tevye: Golde I’m asking you a question… Do you love me?
Golde: You’re a fool
Tevye: I know… But do you love me?
Golde: Do I love you? For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes Cooked your meals, cleaned your house Given you children, milked the cow After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?
Tevye: Golde, The first time I met you Was on our wedding day I was scared
Golde: I was shy
Tevye: I was nervous
Golde: So was I
Tevye: But my father and my mother Said we’d learn to love each other And now I’m asking, Golde Do you love me?
Golde: I’m your wife
Tevye: “I know…” But do you love me?
Golde: Do I love him? For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him Fought him, starved with him Twenty-five years my bed is his If that’s not love, what is?
Tevye: Then you love me?
Golde: I suppose I do
Tevye: And I suppose I love you too
Both: It doesn’t change a thing But even so After twenty-five years It’s nice to know
[Lyrics taken from http://www.stlyrics.com/
After this week of vacation, I’d like to submit that anything Frequent in our life tends be Forgotten! Something we see every day does not rank high on our list of concerns, and therefore, we just naturally forget about it.
It takes a step back, a trip away, in order for us to actually acknowledge those we see day in and day out. It’s incumbent upon any husband/wife or parent to not only support their family, insure a roof over their heads and food in their refrigerator, but to speak to them, joke with them, and insure that you know what’s happening in their world.
Perhaps, our sages understood this so profoundly, when they instructed that we not only think about what should be frequent, but actually acknowledge it verbally almost every time we are commanded to “remember” anything;
–”Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it” [Shemot 20:8] invokes a Jew to not only remember, but to utter Kiddush [the sanctification of the day verbally each Friday night] [Tractate Berachot 20b; Rambam's Code, Laws of Shabbat, 29:1].
–”You shall remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you went out of Egypt” [Devarim 25:17] commands that we read the passage each year, describing the travesties and tragedies this nation brought upon the Jewish people [Tractate Megilla 18a; Rambam's Code, Laws of Kings 5:5].
–“Remember this day, when you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage…” [Shemot 13:3] commands us to say the words of the Haggadah [the story of the emergence from bondage to freedom each Seder night each year] [Rambam's Code, Laws of Chametz and Matza 7:1.]
Indeed, it’s rather easy to forget within a year the events of Pesach and those of Amalek [Tractate Berachot 58b], or even to forget the sanctity and uniqueness of each 7th day from one Shabbat to the next. But these are not only once-a-week or once-a-year commands. Each morning, 365 days a year, we begin our prayers with the following blessings, ordained by our sages [Tractate Berachot 60b]:
.כי מתער, אומר: אלהי, נשמה שנתת בי טהורה…ברוך אתה ה’ המחזיר נשמות לפגרים מתים
.כי שמע קול תרנגולא, לימא: ברוך אשר נתן לשכוי בינה להבחין בין יום ובין לילה
.כי פתח עיניה, לימא: ברוך פוקח עורים
…כי לביש, לימא: ברוך מלביש ערומים
When one gets up, one says; “My G-d, the soul that you’ve given me in pure….blessed be you G-d who returns souls to dead bodies.
When you hear the rooster, you say “blessed who has given the rooster the ability to distinguish between day and night.
When you open your eyes, you say “blessed who opens eyes……
…when you get dressed you say “blessed who dresses the naked.
The rooster crows in the morning, you can get up off your bed, you woke up, you got dressed, and these warrant no less then an outright blessing, with the holy name of God we dare not use in vain?
What’s the big deal?
But that seems to be the point - precisely because it happens each morning, we must utter a blessing.
It seems rather consistent that in the eyes of our sages, anything that’s frequent can be easily forgotten, and even more naturally left unacknowledged! Thus, our sages commanded that a blessing be made over them…each day, knowing only too well how easily we can forget the extraordinary privileges we have…right under our noses. After all, let’s just imagine the day when…they won’t be there.
–Imagine the morning when we can’t get out of bed, due to a broken leg or fractured back. Think of the intent you’ll feel when you say “zokef kifufim” [straightens the crooked] when you get better!
–Let’s say a mosquito penetrated your window at night, and thus you awaken to a swelled up eye due to an allergic reaction. I would love to be in the room with you, after this predicament is over, when you say “pokeach ivrim” [give sight to the blind] the next morning.
Perhaps the tragedy of the Human Being, so connected to incoming emails and calls, is that being so connected to the latest news and every email, we somehow miss what’s right under our noses.
So I urge you – disconnect from all distractions once a year, or better yet, once a day for just a half hour, so you can connect to what’s right there. Don’t allow the frequent to become forgotten, but rather use the gift of speech to connect to all that is there.
Don’t wait for the eulogy at the funeral parlor to acknowledge what you had, but today, right now, acknowledge them while you have them frequently with you. Perhaps Tevye can say “After twenty-five years It’s nice to know” that his wife loves him. Let’s not wait that long.
About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.
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