This article appeared in the April, 2021 issue of The Scroll.
Every so often, I go back and read my past articles published here in The Scroll. Sometimes I do it for inspiration and sometimes I do it just to check myself to ensure that I am providing an interesting mix of topics from month to month.
Well, I just did that.
I have a white board in my office. I want to go over to it and write 100 times, “I will NOT write about COVID.” In rereading some of my last few articles, it seemed to me that every article I read dealt, in one way or another, with the COVID pandemic. I do not like being repetitive and, even if the topics were different and COVID was only an element in the article, I feel like it has become too prevalent in my writing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. When I write these articles, I write on topics that are on my mind and that I believe will be of interest and use to you, the reader. This pandemic has colored everything for over a year, so I guess it is natural that it would show up, in one form or another, many times. Today, however, I am going to say, at least for this month, ENOUGH ABOUT COVID! I am sick and tired of this bloody pandemic and its effect on our lives. So let’s try, even for a few moments, to just forget about it and take a break.
So, what shall I write about?
Well, I have been thinking a lot about the topic of laughter. One of our greatest gifts is the ability to just let loose with an unconstrained belly laugh that leaves us gasping for breath and wiping tears from our eyes. I truly think there is nothing better.
I’ll let you in on a personal secret. You may think that I feel successful when I write a good article, lead a special service, give a meaningful sermon, or lead a good learning group. Nah. You want to know when I really feel good about what I have accomplished? When I can send my wife into paroxysms of laughter. When I crack a joke and I hear her shriek with uncontrolled laughter. Sometimes, I will just wait with a smile on my face and wait for her attack to subside and sometimes I will laugh as hard, or perhaps even harder, than she does. When I can get her to laugh, after 35+ years of marriage, I feel a special connection with her. I feel like I have done something truly special and given the love of my life a gift: a special memory we can remember in our old age and laugh about again.
I remember a special story. When I started at Shaarey Israel, the Rabbi used to start every sermon with the same phrase: “A story is told…” He would, following an age old rabbinic tradition, begin his message with a joke. When he took his first Shabbat off after I became cantor, I knew that I would be delivering the sermon. I had an idea for the topic I wanted to cover and I wanted to throw a twist at the congregation. So, I went to the rabbi and asked his permission to use his iconic phrase to start my sermon. He consented. So, I started my sermon with “A story is told…” and the entire congregation laughed at my use of the phrase. I then proceeded to tell a true, very sad, and meaningful story about the Holocaust, and my sermon unfolded from there. It all worked out better than I ever hoped.
Then there is the topic of music. I don’t know about you, but I love to listen to music of all kinds. I’ll confess that as I am typing this article, I have my headphones on and some rock and roll is playing in my ears. Music gets my mind moving, my blood pumping, and my creative juices flowing. I have had many times when I have had to work deep into the night and all that kept me going was the music blaring out of my computer speakers (if I was in the office and alone) or out of my headphones. I admit to actually standing up from my chair, sometimes, and dancing while, at the same time, typing computer code at high speed. I remember those moments with a smile and not a small amount of pride too.
Let me share another memory with you, this one music related. We recently purchased an Amazon Alexa which we have in our kitchen. Chana and I were in the kitchen and, if memory serves, we were cooking together. Suddenly, I called out “Alexa, play…” I chose a song that Chana and I both knew and it had a good beat. Next thing you know, I took Chana by her hand and we just started dancing around the kitchen. It was a special moment for me (and I hope for her) as we, in our acutely inexpert ways, shared a private dance.
Here’s another topic. I recently looked on Facebook and it reminded me that I had a “memory.” It was a picture of two of my grandchildren that was incredibly cute. I am sure you know the type, two babies sleeping in perfectly posed positions. Since my daughter-in-law Allison is a master photographer (you should check her work out at https://www.allisonbazianphotography.com/), the picture she took of her two children (this was before the youngest was born) was too beautiful to just pass by. I downloaded the photo and sent it to Chana. Needless to say, the shout of glee when she saw it was probably audible across the street.
Our lives are made up of moments. Yes, we have practical experiences to deal with, like work, cleaning, etc., but those are not the moments that make up life in my humble opinion. They are necessary but life happens in-between. What really counts are the moments of laughter, togetherness and love.
There are many ways to have those moments but I will let you in on a secret: The best moments are not scripted or planned. They are great because they happen spontaneously; because you are with someone you love.
This time between Pesach and Shavuot is a time when we remember 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died because “They did not show proper respect to each other.” Perhaps they were so focused on intellectual advancement through their learning that they missed the whole point of Torah and Mitzvot: to make us better people. The more we look to make moments with those we love, the closer we come to the ideal that Hashem wants from us. We need to care about each other, especially those we love. The moments you create are the essence of what life is about.
Chana and I wish that you enjoy lives filled with treasured moments.
Postscript: We all need someone to look over our shoulders and my wife is that person for me. I almost never submit one of these articles without reading it to her first. Her reaction will usually tell me whether or not I have written an article that is meaningful and entertaining. Well, as I read this one to her, she broke into peals of laughter more than once. This article, with which I had hoped to share the importance of meaningful moments, turned into a moment in and of itself. Like I said, the best moments of life are the ones you don’t plan on.