From The Rabbi’s Study, September 2017
I was visiting Jonah, who is taking classes at DePaul and living in a student apartment in the Loop, when I decided to text a picture of him standing in front of his bedroom window, with a great view of Willis Tower in the background, to Debbie and Becca. They responded immediately and we began a conversation about how much better his view is than Becca’s. She proved it by texting a picture from her window. By this time, I was walking down the street, phone in hand, when suddenly it struck me that Jonah was in his apartment, Debbie was up at OSRUI in Wisconsin, and Becca was on the other side of the equator, working in Ecuador for the summer. And the four of us were sharing pictures and conversing as easily as if we were all standing in the same room. What an amazing world!
I guess I’m fortunate to live when I do, because my family has arrived at that stage where for all of us to be together in the same room has become a bit of a novelty. (This summer we only managed five days together.) I realize that this is how it’s supposed to be, that our kids are supposed to grow up, head off, and begin to make a life for themselves. Usually I manage to deal with it pretty well. Okay, usually I ignore the fact that they’re gone. But this summer it’s been harder to ignore and I’ve been feeling a bit more melancholy than usual.
It’s hard not to think back a few years and remember when we were all living in the same house. But of course, if I’m honest with myself I remember the reality, that those childhood years were filled with a great deal more bickering than they were with family harmony. In fact there were some days that seemed to drag on forever and felt like they would never end. Yet now, one 24 hour period flows quickly into the next, as days pass by like a rushing stream.
The other day I was struck by a verse in Psalm 90 which reads: “A thousand years in God’s sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” In the past this verse spoke to me of immortality, that although the world around us is continually changing, God is eternal. But now this passage comes across differently, and it seems more relatable to me, more personal. It’s not that I can understand what the passage of a thousand years would feel like, but I’ve begun to appreciate the idea of the “elasticity” of time, that while days and years last a set amount of time, the length of those days and years, our experience of them, can expand or contract, depending on one’s frame of reference, one’s age and stage of life.
Right now it feels as if I’ve stepped onto a superhighway and life has begun to fly. I expect that within the next decade or so there will be some changes, as my children settle in and start to build their own worlds and Debbie and I take on new roles in our family and community. But for now, I’m going to keep hanging on, striving not only to enjoy the view, but identifying ways to leave markers behind for others to find, to create blessings for those who follow, and to not only count my days, but to make them count.
It used to feel as if days lasted forever. But now I know that years can pass in the blink of an eye.
In this coming year, let me fill my days with blessings and let me use them well. May 5778 be filled with joy and gladness, good health, family and friends. May it be a year of growing and sharing, and of being and bringing blessings. Amen.
Rabbi Sidney M. Helbraun
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