The beginning of our Parashah, Chayyei Sarah, announces the death of Sarah by describing her life according to the number of her years. I could, and probably should, write a more source driven dvar Torah this week, but I am taken by the very opening phrase as today I too take account of my years. Today I turn 42. I do so in Jerusalem with Amalya at my side. It could only be better if Becca, Elan and Mira were here with me. I have a lot for which to be thankful. I live a truly blessed life.
So today, I say thank you to all those who have had an impact on me. They are far too many to count, far more than I deserve. Listing you would invariably leave one of you out so a very general, very deep and sincere group thanks will have to suffice. Somehow, I have been apprenticed to great masters and mentored by people with a depth of wisdom that I cannot describe.
I am blessed with a wonderful, glorious family, a magnificent wife (I often tell people that I married far above my own life status and I really mean it), and fantastic children. They are truly a blessing. Even when I have to give them their brachot over the phone from Israel, the birkat yeladim - blessing the children - is really a way of letting them know that they are incredible brachot in my life.
I am fortunate that in 42 short years, I have been included in several life changing ventures. Before “Independent Minyanim” were popular, I got to help execute the vision of two wonderful rabbis, Michael Seigel and David Soloff, in building a dues free Shabbat morning minyan in Chicago, a project that far outlasted my involvement and flourishes today.
I was blessed to help build a camp that still touches thousands of lives every summer. The web of people in whose lives I am involved and who impact me is wide and complex...and it pops up at the oddest moments. Take today for example. I was sitting with Amalya and her friend Hallel at Bagel Bite on the corner of Derekh Bet Lechem and Yehudah when a former camper, Nathan Pankowsky, walked by. He was talking to a woman who was a shlicha at Camp Ramah in Canada. While talking to Nathan, I caught somebody out of the corner of my eye (15 years in camp leadership helps you develop incredible peripheral vision). I stopped mid-sentence and shouted across the intersection “Marc!” There was Marc Silberstein, a madrich and rosh aidah for several years at Ramah Darom. And inside the restaurant was Arnee Winshall - an incredible leader in Jewish Camping and in Jewish education.
In talking with Arnee and her friends, I had another chance to mention Camp Yofi and the importance of reaching out to the entire family in a unit where there are children with Autism. The blessing of the years of involvement with these families always reminds me of how important this program is, how it needs to be expanded, and how the Jewish community needs to live the ethos of the values of the prophets in making space for the incredible families.
And in the morning, I was walking downtown when I ran into Michal Kabatznik and her mother, Barbara. And it is here where it all comes together. Michal was a camper, staff member, and department head at Ramah Darom. Her mother is the site director of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School in Boca Raton. Michal made Aliyah this year. I now work with her mother. All incredible blessings.
While I sometimes find Facebook a little terrifying, I am reconnecting with people who were blessings in my life long ago. In short, I have so much to say thank you for. So many blessings in my life, and these blessings are just in the first 42 years. I can only imagine what lies ahead in the next 42.
This morning, I walked in the shuk Mahane Yehudah, the bustling outdoor market in Jerusalem. I love it. I love the smells, the tastes, the sounds, even the pushing and shoving. As I wandered the alleyways, my eyes welled up in sadness, the sadness that comes with knowing that on Monday night, I will once again fly away, back to the US. And with each trip, I feel like I leave another small piece of my soul here, waiting to be collected back - a deposit on acquiring an achuza - a possession - in the land of Israel. And with each deposit, it gets harder and harder to leave. Our parashah talks about acquiring an achuzat kaver - a possession of a burial ground - as the beginning of the fulfillment of part of the Divine Promise, a land. Of all the berachot that I hope for in the next 42 years, an achuzat Chaim - a living possession in this land, is the one I hope for most.
With thanks to God for these incredible 42 years of blessing and with an excited eye toward the next 42 years and what blessings they will bring, I wish you all a