Thursday, September 20, 2018

Yom Kippur and young people.

I read an article in the Times the other day, the day before Yom Kippur to be precise, about how important it is to think about the life you're living. You can read the article here.

The article was called "A Dress Rehearsal for Our Deaths," and it advises you to confront your mortality head-on. To think about it. To consider, I'm quoting Sartre in "The Wall" here, if you lived as if you "had forever."

Too many people, most people maybe, go through life as if they're filling out a baseball card full of stats. How much money they make, the vintage of their German car, the size of their apartments and so on. 

How many people think about how they're really doing?
You know, the elemental things. In Jewish lore it comes down to this: will you or will you not be inscribed in the book of life. ie, are you a good person?

Last night, Yom Kippur, with our kids out of town, my wife and I invited over a bunch of our office children and their significant others to break the Yom Kippur fast. It was two 60-somethings hosting six 20-somethings. The age gap didn't matter.

We broke bread, ate smoked salmon, had apples dipped in honey and talked about our lives. It's a beautiful thing seeing beautiful young people as they make their ways in the world.

When they had left our place--and they stayed just the right amount of time--I did what people do: I checked my Facebook and I saw that a friend from the business, like me, just 60 years old, had just died. There was a short tribute to her on my feed. Not long ago I had tried to help her daughter find a job in the business, and now she was dead.

I'm at that stage in life now--ten years short of the Torah's "threescore and ten," but, my friends on the far left side of the bell curve are beginning to go. Three, maybe seven, already, including my sister Nancy. Dead at 47 in a motorcycle crash.

It's a sobering thing to see on something as dumb and ephemeral as social media. Someone who meant something to you gone like a leaf blowing down the pavement in a storm. Gone.

You count your limbs. You listen to your breathing. You secretly feel for bumps or lumps or unexplained wheezing or a pain that wasn't there the day before. You say, this can't happen to me. I ran for half an hour today. 

But guess what? It can happen.

So do what you should do. Have some young people over for lox and bagels. Dip some apples in honey. Take your dog to the beach and walk far without once looking at your watch or your phone. Laugh as much as possible.

And most of all, try to be kind. To others, to yourself, to your kids and spouse and your craft.

Rabbi Hillel, in the great Jewish book "Ethics of the Fathers," asked, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?"

Not to top Hillel, the Lou Gehrig of Jewish thought, but there's this I just read: "Who is wise? One who learns from every person." That's something to think about, too. Learning from every person. Learning from people younger than your kids.

Whether you're a member of the tribe, or not, have a happy, healthy, and wise 5779.

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