The Marking of Time
Ignoring the beginning of the secular year was a mark to one’s credit at the traditional Jewish Day School I attended as a boy. Though our teachers grudgingly acknowledged the Gregorian calendar as the standard for the country, they made sure the transition, which took place months after the real new year on Rosh HaShana, would not be marked by ceremony by us. Living in South Philadelphia, however, I could hardly have absented myself from celebration. The cradle of the Mummers (google it if you don’t know who they are), New Year’s day was like all of Marti Gras in just twenty-four hours. But today, given both my profession and my inability to be fully conscious after 11:00 P.M., I am completely in sync with the Jewish year, though I usually manage to witness the ball descend the 141 feet from the top of One Times Square on the seventeen inch TV in my bedroom.
Time, of course, is relative. The life span of a human being is so much greater than that of a fruit fly; similarly, the human life span is insignificant measured against the life of a star. Moreover, we come to think about time differently in the course of our own lives. My first brush with mortality was with the death of my father almost thirty years ago, when moving “to front of the line” (as the poet, Linda Pastan, has expressed it) became as personally poignant. Years later at age fifty-five, I celebrated the first blush of being a senior by flying to Canada on my birthday to get my first discount in a movie theater (a savings of $1.25 [Canadian] on an expenditure of almost $300!). When I turned sixty-two, I realized I was much past the mid-point in my life. It was then that I decided not to use years to mark the passing of time, but to use people instead. Two years ago I welcomed a son into my life in the person of my daughter Sara’s husband, Matthew, and with him his parents and extended family. As far as the future goes, God willing, grandchildren may be added to my life in the course of the next several years. (Note: This is not an announcement.) In this I see the renewal of time and the promise of a future beyond me.
I have also experienced the end of time with the death of people who have been so much a part of my life. In 2013, with you I have had to say good-bye to long-term congregant members Enrique Lenchewski, Al Stracher, Naomi Feldheim, Sam Benjamin, and Al Connable, to past members Fred November and Ros Mainelli, and to the newest participant in our synagogue community, Lori Schiffer. I can’t tell you the dates on which they died, but I can tell you how each of them touched my life and enriched the days that I knew them.
The marking of time is a human invention. The people who live in time are a part of the great Wellspring of Life that many call God. Their memories will continue to be a blessing to me long after the anticipated stroke of midnight December 31, and for all the years to come thereafter. In the same way, I hope my life will be a blessing to you and to others in the years that I have yet to live.
With wishes for a good, healthy and productive 2014, I am, as always, warmly,