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Life is Short: A Reminder 

06/14/2022 01:18:58 PM


Rabbi Sam Trief

This morning as I opened Instagram, I learned that Jodi, a woman I had once known, passed away at the age of 62. I was not even aware that she was sick. It had been 20 years since we had last spoken, and yet the news still stopped me in my tracks. In the flash of an instant, in the casual motion of scrolling up or down each morning, we can face such surprise and such sadness.  

As we walk through our days, we spend so much time on trivial things; hours trying to figure out what refrigerator to purchase or what color to paint our walls - manufactured stress that we create for ourselves. When…ultimately,  none of it matters. Because you can open your phone one morning, and learn that someone you once knew, tragically passed away. 

Jodi drove me to Hebrew School every week for years. She was tough and strong. She drove us in a sleek black car - one that had GPS before anyone else ever did (I thought that was really cool!)  And in a weird and distant way, she shaped me, because we learn from the people we spend time with in our younger years. In unknown ways, they leave their stamp on us. 

Of course - this is not a new message at all, but it is one that resonates within me this morning. It reminds me to take the trip- the laundry can wait. It really doesn't matter what color you paint your walls, as long as YOU like it. Eat the cookie, if it makes you smile.  Your kid stained your couch - so what? The door slammed too hard - big deal. We can live our lives stressed and worried - or we can live our days free and unencumbered. What is it that we want people to say about us? Did we burn bridges over little things, or did we let them roll off our chests and in turn strengthen our relationships with others?

Judaism teaches us that in the sadness and loss - we must be able to grasp the goodness, and bring it in.

In our parshah this week, Beha'alotcha, we read the infamous story of the Israelites in the desert and their complaining. First they complain about the length of the journey. Then they complain about the manna, expressing their desire for meat. Moses becomes so frustrated that he tells God he can no longer bear his role any more. God promises to provide the Israelites with an abundance of meat — "until it will come out of their noses...": God causes a wind to sweep in huge numbers of quail from the sea. The people gathered piles of quail and started enjoying meat. Those who ate gluttonously died in a plague.

How do we see past our own desires, our own immediate needs and comforts? How do we avoid falling into the trap of the whining Israelites, always dissatisfied with their lot. Always upset by what other people do and say. 

 I think about my grandfather who passed away in December. Anytime you spoke to him on the phone, he would say “I had a good life, I had good grandkids, I did everything I ever wanted.” He  wanted everyone to know that if he were to die that day, he was happy with what he had. He knew he was blessed. He was never upset about the little things, he didn’t care if you broke what he had or lost something - he was simply glad he had it to offer you in the first place. 

 What are the trivial things in our life that are tensing us up? What is causing us to be short or unkind to others? What is the manufactured stress that we create for ourselves, causing us to be harsh to others? And how do we let that go, so that if we were to live our last days on earth, it would be said about us, that we were generous, kind, openhearted, and not bothered by the little things. That is my goal for myself, and my family. What would you want others to say about YOU when you live your last days on earth? 

So thank you to Jodi, for the reminder this morning, and for allowing us to think about the qualities that help us live a life well-lived. May our stress vanish and may tranquility and wholeness wash over us all.

Shabbat Shalom. 

Mon, December 11 2023 28 Kislev 5784