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Dovid M. Cohen
Rabbi, Author, Podcaster

Abba/Zeide

Naama Leah Cohen at 4 months old

The past year was encapsulated by two personal milestones.

The first milestone was my fiftieth birthday celebrated on shabbos bereishis.

Not having been to Israel since before the pandemic, my wife & I made the trip in November for four days to celebrate with siblings & parents.  On that trip, we shared the second milestone, the exciting news that we were expecting. Our daughter Naama, ‘my delight’ was born immediately before Pesach.

This little girl was far from a foregone conclusion and many personal tefillos were offered to bring her down to the world.

After the pure shock of the news, the responses were two-fold.

Some told me that I’m crazy, others that they were envious. I was touched by my shadchan, who set me up twenty years ago, who shared that she was born when her father was fifty and she took his skis away a few years ago when he turned ninety!

These consequential events have me thinking of the approaching Yomim Noraim.

One of the highlights of the machzor is ‘unetaneh tokef’ with the phrases ‘mi yechei oh mi yamus’ ‘who will live and who will die,’ ‘mi bekitzo umi lo bekitzo,’ who in the proper time and who not in the exact time.

Fifty certainly isn’t young.  Even with constant advances in medicine, and brachos we give to live ‘ad meah vesrim’ until ‘one hundred twenty,’ I only know one centenarian.

I can sadly visit the cemetery and see the tombstones of a number of friends.

On the other hand, I once visited R’ Moshe Shapiro zt’l and expressed concern in a particular context about someone’s age. He said to me, “who really knows who is old and who is young?”

A younger person who passes is ‘old.’ A person of seventy-five or eighty can still have many good years ahead of them.R’ Moshe zt’l lost a sixteen year old daughter to cancer and profoundly understood the insight he shared.

Nobody really knows what next year will bring. We pray for ‘ala brachos’ and hope to return the following year in need of those very same things.

Some years turn out much better than others.

I appreciate the humor in referring to me as Abba/Zeide, but ultimately age really is just a number.

What is more significant is how we see ourselves and what might still be left for us to accomplish with the precious time gifted to us.

About the Author
Rabbi Dovid M. Cohen has served as a communal Rabbi for decades, serving Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn, NJ, Young Israel of the West Side in Manhattan and Congregation Ohr Torah in North Woodmere, NY. Rabbi Cohen appreciates knowledge of all types, earning a law degree from Columbia Law School and a Masters degree in Family Therapy from the University of North Texas with a concentration in couple dynamics. He has also done course work at the Columbia Business School, Yad Vashem and the Tikvah Fund. He served for many years as a rabbinical judge on the Beis Din of America, affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America. He is the author of the book “We’re Almost There: Living with Patience, Perseverance and Purpose,” published by Mosaica Press in 2016, presenting a pathway for confronting challenges. His most recent book “Together Again: Reimagining the Relationships that Anchor Our Lives,” an exploration of critical relationships post the pandemic was published in 2022. The Rabbi is the host of the popular Jewish Philanthropy Podcast (“The JPP”) with thousands of listeners and a skilled fundraiser as a Senior Relationship Officer at the Orthodox Union’s Yachad division. He is the proud father of six children and lives with his wife & family in North Woodmere, NY.
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