Perspectives

It’s the end of the summer and start of the fall. For me, it’s an overwhelming time. I feel bombarded by…Events. Dates. Memories. Emotions. The passage of time.

Many thoughts run through my head during these weeks. So many memories pop into consciousness at random times. Many emotions cause a spontaneous constriction in my throat and swelling in my eyes. Much has been said and done. Yet so much still must be said and done. There simply aren’t enough hours in the days, weeks and months to say and do it all. The clock is ticking.

And my list is growing.

August was my grandfather’s one-hundredth birthday. With it came the announcement that I will become a grandmother myself. One hundred years of life’s challenges, regrets, successes and blessings contrasted with a future of unlimited potential. The Old Country versus the New World. What learning from Zaydie’s century will shape my relationship with a new generation?

***

For me, World War II was synonymous with the Holocaust and the death of six million Jews. I knew, of course, that millions of others died as well, but my view was myopic and very personal. Then I visited the Normandy region in France at the end of August. I toured Omaha Beach, Arromanche, and the American Cemetery. I was moved deeply by the sacrifices made to fight evil. Especially at the cemetery, upon seeing an occasional Star of David grave marker amidst thousands of crosses, I realized how very wrong I’ve been. The war was full of narratives and themes — representing different truths — from which we all can learn and grow. Lessons to share in a new year and with a new generation.

***

It’s the seventeenth anniversary of September 11th. This past Tuesday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, my brother-the-rabbi and his colleagues held a touching memorial service during the morning prayers. It was the first time I said the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a Jewish prayer service. It was the first time I paid tribute to fallen Jews and non-Jews in a sanctuary. It was the first time I sang Adon Olam to the tune of “Oh Beautiful.” I never will forget where I was, what I was doing, what I saw and how I felt on September 11, 2001. But sometimes I forget that, no matter how Jewish and committed to Israel I am, I was born in America. Its triumphs and tragedies are mine too.

***

This week coming week is my fifty-seventh birthday. I get to celebrate it on the eve of Yom Kippur. Which reminds me that it’s the forty-fifth anniversary of the Yom Kippur war. More dates. Memories. Emotions. The passage of time.

***

My brother-rabbi recently wrote an article about perspectives; seeing familiar things through different eyes. This time of year reminds me to blink, clear the fog and look again. To think again. It’s reminiscent of my favorite metaphor of looking through a kaleidoscope. The same stuff looks very different when you turn the dial.

And so, I will try to look at daily life — in its context of the past and future — through a different lens. To savor the successes and blessings, to appreciate the challenges, and to minimize regrets.

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