Amy Grossblatt Pessah

Fleeting Time

I went to check a future date in my calendar in the year 2029 and noticed my standing Monday lunch date with my parents. Seeing it took my breath away. Perhaps it is because of where we are situated in the Jewish year, in the aseret y’mei teshuva, the ten days of return, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Perhaps it is having prayed the words of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy, “Who will live and who will die?” Or perhaps it was the integration of my rabbi’s powerful sermon urging all of us to “Savor the moment.”

Regardless of the reason, all I know is that I was quickly shaken by the possibility that I might not be able to have lunch with my parents, or any other of my beloveds, for that matter, in 2029. While I would love to have my special people around for many more years, I know that there is no guarantee. Seeing that perpetual lunch date six years from now hit me in a way I had not anticipated. Most of us use the “repeat” feature on our phones to indicate events that are recurring-be it weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or yearly, and while it does make it much easier for programming purposes, it provides us with a false sense of security. Why do we think that by clicking a button and setting our calendars for future plans, we are assured that the event will occur?

During the High Holy day season, we are reminded again and again that time is fleeting and that there are no guarantees for a long life. The pinnacle of the High Holy day liturgy, the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, pierces us to the core with its litany of questions that begins with:

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed

And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.                                                                                          How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,

Who shall live and who shall die,                                                                                       Who shall reach the end of their days and who shall not…

While none of us knows the day of our death, we like to believe that there is a natural order to life with those older dying before those younger. And yet, we know this is not always the case. None of us knows the precise amount of time allotted to us; nevertheless, despite this uncertainty, we do get to decide how we want to live with the time we have left, how we want to show up in our relationships—with family members, friends, colleagues, and with the natural world.

Now—right now—is the moment  to think about these questions.

What have you always wanted to do but were too afraid to try? What new skill do you want to learn? Who do you want to reach out to but didn’t for fear of rejection? How do you want to be remembered and what steps will you take to help ensure it will be so?

Each day that I am blessed to speak with my parents, I feel tremendously grateful. While I don’t always succeed, I try my best to be present and free from distractions. When they ask me for favors that might not have been on my own calendar, I do them willingly and with gratitude, telling myself that this will not always be the case. Despite my immense desire to put my lunch date with my parents on permanent repeat, I know that is not how life works and I am reminded of this notion, with even greater poignancy, at this time of year.

May we each be blessed to live life to its fullness.

May we each be gifted to grow into the best versions of ourselves.

And may we each live our lives with urgency and effervescence, knowing that our lives and our relationships do indeed have an expiration date.

–With thanks to Rabbi David Baum of Congregation Shaarei Kodesh for inspiring these words.

About the Author
Amy Grossblatt Pessah is a rabbi, author, spiritual director, and mom. She received her MAJE from HUC-JIR and her semicha from Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Amy's writings can be found on various websites and in numerous anthologies; her first book, Parenting on a Prayer, was published in 2020. She resides in Florida with her husband and together they are the proud parents of three young adults.
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