It is birthday season for me. Although the US Federal government has yet to officially declare my birthday February 12 as an official government holiday, some States have. And for that I am very appreciative.
As I enter my 60th year of life on this planet, I figure it is an opportune time to look back at certain key events in my life, and even more important, what lessons have I learned over the past six decades.
First of all, as our Sages of Old taught, a truly wise person is someone who is able to learn from every … single … person, and of course, from every single event you observe. And as my good friend Jonathan Harris taught me a long time ago, sometimes you just gotta’ go with your gut.
Although it was not of my own doing, still, to be born in 1959 to a Jewish Orthodox family in Miami Beach. Florida was not common, the Orthodox community being quite small back then. (The practice back then was for physicians to offer their services gratis to clergy. I guess the joke was on our family pediatrician, 15 kids later!)
The first gutsy move I can recall making was deciding as a young teenager to leave the comfort of home, to leave Miami Beach, and to study for four years in a Yeshiva High School, living in a dorm, in Brooklyn, New York. Please remember, this is during the 70s, when we still “signaled” someone when we wanted to make a long distance phone call.
It was a bit gutsy choosing to attend Rabbinical College back in Miami Beach, when almost everyone else was attending Rabbinical College in the Metropolitan New York area.
And then deciding after two years to leave Miami Beach forever, heading back to New York for good, finding a job to support myself and continue with my Rabbinical College education, eventually receiving Rabbinical Ordination at the age of 22.
Of course of course of course, the most, most important decision of my life was to decide, after only one date(barely), to spend the rest of my life with my partner, best friend and love of my life, Ellie. Not that her parents were especially thrilled to hear about my decision after I proposed three days later. Still, we are going on year 37 (and please God grandchild number 20). Hands down, BEST … DECISION … EVER!!!
Together, we decided to leave the “safety” of Crown Heights and to raise our family over the river in Teaneck, New Jersey, becoming an important part of the growing Jewish community there. During our 21 years there I decided to volunteer my time and to become an EMT, as well as deciding to leave the “safety” of being an educational director to instead become “executive director”, opening six thriving Chabad Centers in New Jersey.
And most definitely, deciding at the age of 44 to leave the comfort and “safety” of the United States, together with our family of 10 at the time, to make Aliyah to the one and only place in this world where every single Jew belongs, Israel. Call us brave, naïve, idealistic, probably a dose of all that and more, we sold our home in Teaneck and built one in the Judean Desert. That was 15 years ago. For good measure I studied for two years as we struggled to survive so that I could become a licensed tour guide.
On one’s birthday, special powers are endowed by God upon you. I plan to use those powers to make some more gutsy moves over the next 60 years. That is my blessing to you. Every moment of your life is a new opportunity. Not a single one should slip by.