This goes out to my beautiful daughter, who, along with about 50 other kids, is on her way to Israel. Literally just got back from LAX… well… with a stop at Darna Mediterranean Cuisine. What?! Somebody had to eat shawarma and falafel today!
I am excited and nervous… envious and thrilled. I know that this trip will create life-long memories… and I hope that it seeps into her heart and soul and completely envelops her, like it did me… like the wrapping of a blanket… a Tallit around all of us.
Joy… sadness… a glance to the future… a dwelling in the past… You know… a typical day on this earth.
Let me preface what follows by saying that I know way too many people who are sick… dealing with medical and life crises that they should not have to be dealing with at this age. I feel more and more mortal each day.
And I know… I know that my gripes and the impetus for this piece are petty in comparison. I know that. But we are who we are, and are bothered by what we are bothered by. Sometimes it’s not so easy to have the perspective we actually need.
We try as hard as we can, to be calm and light-hearted, to be spiritual and holy… and always look at the bright side of life… (Cue Monty Python) Doo doo… doo doo doo doo doo doo… but it an’t always easy.
Instead of looking in the mirror, I try to look out into the world as often as I can… But that too has its pitfalls. There are days when the news is overwhelming, with far too many stories of this man-made phenomenon called murder and mayhem. Terrorism affecting every corner of the globe, leaving destruction and death behind.
And then nature’s devastation causes its own havoc… sometimes as deadly… sometimes worse. Fire and floods, almost… Biblical.
People losing everything, and I mean everything.
Every stitch of clothing, every photograph, every home movie, every memory, other than those stored in what is now an overwhelmed brain and a broken heart.
How do we start our days this way? Or end them this way? With the news/horror show playing before we even rise or drift off into dream?
These are the days when I want to stay in the shower a little longer… Okay… a lot longer. The warmth and comfort of every drop protecting me… and delaying me from the harsh and cold realities just outside the shower door. The water, massaging my scalp… dripping in and out of my eyes instead of tears… With my head bowed and my hands on the shower wall, preparing for what will shortly come in the guise of a day… facing whatever challenges life and living have in store.
Or perhaps I’ll hide under the blankets… buried in the darkness and not nearly as much fun as when I was a child.
It is mornings like these that make prayer a battle… struggling and questioning and not being happy or able to find the joy in prayer that Rabbi Nachman talks about… that is so essential.
My friend Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld says that prayer sometimes is JUST THAT… a battle… a wrestling match to stay focused and connected.
So let the battle begin! Or continue… As some days it’s easy and seemingly so positive and fruitful… and others… well… not!
The other day I was in a fender bender. I was in a parking lot… trying to rush to a store before it closed… trying to do a favor for my daughter. I was impatient, as the car two ahead of me was driving insanely slow… So I was performing my usual, out-loud banter, describing the scenario, criticizing the driver and their skills… or lack thereof. Hey, it beats actual road rage, as I try to be silly and sarcastic about it, but still…
There were some firetrucks… I was distracted… I looked at them… I looked in front of me again, and BOOM! Thought I braked in time, but Nooo! And maybe he stopped short… but the rear ender is usually the one at fault. DOH!
No damage to my car… really minor scratches to his bumper. The squealing brakes and crashing sound were far worse than the actual damage. But, as he said, it was a lease and he would not have cared about it normally.
So at least a few hundred dollars just flew out of my pocket. ()_*&^*()!
Update as of a few hours ago… the nice man who claimed that he was not one of these guys to claim his neck hurts… and that he has injuries… and was willing to do it all off the record has filed a claim with my insurance. So way more money gone… deductible… probably more than the repairs…
And yes, it is just money… Yes, my insurance rates will sky-rocket… and then sky-rocket again in August when we add the 16-year old onto the policy. AAGGHH!!! Breathe… It IS just money. But for someone struggling with career and finances… that is a huge concern.
I went home quite upset and angry with myself. I went through the whole, “Why was that necessary?”… Why me?”… “Why would Hashem, who controls everything, need to do that???”
And then something clicked for me… and I am still struggling with it, believe me, but it is a thought that might not have come to me so quickly or even at all a few years ago…
While I wasn’t texting, I know that I deal with my phone in the car way more than I should… I know I get inpatient and angry with other drivers way more than I should. I know that rushing and being hasty in so many things has its dangers. Stop… slow it down… pay better attention… focus.
Hashem just gave me a lesson that will perhaps save my life. An expensive and pricey lesson, but a lesson.
Or maybe something disastrous was going to happen if I had not gone to the store… If I had stayed on the freeway and had gone home. Maybe Hashem needed me off the road.
I have no idea really… and I am still aggravated and tense… and hoping we can work this out as men who seemed to agree to it in the parking lot… but I am really trying to see the lesson… to embrace it… to learn and grow… really trying to stick with my faith, and not be swayed, especially when it is tested, in big or small arenas. Yes, this is a very small thing in the larger picture of the world and life…
To embrace that it is not always about winning, but how you perform and play when challenged.
Why? I don’t know. There are answers we simply may never get… things we may NEVER fully understand… but when life throws you lemons… or Etrogs… make a beautiful, lemonade/etrogade, sweetened with faith and Emunah… It will go a long way when things get heated. And know that no matter what, Hashem does have his reasons for everything.
So breathe… have faith… and keep moving forward… just be safe and attentive and always pay attention to to what lies ahead… and what may be right in front go you.