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Sledding: A reflection on October 7th

In a world where everything we know can shift irrevocably in an instant, let’s hold tight to the blessings in our midst
Sledding (travnikovstudio/iStock)
Sledding (travnikovstudio/iStock)

On the first real snow day in two years, my kids asked to go sledding. Given that the last time we went sledding together, I careened down the hill at a “speed so fast I felt like I was drunk,” and then, rather unceremoniously, fell off the darn thing, bruising my tush so badly I couldn’t sit without yelping for weeks, I said, “go ask your dad.” But my husband was already one step ahead, eagerly laying out all the sledding gear by the front door, with near-fanatical joy and anticipation.

He had everything ready to go by 9 am, but the kids were on a slightly “delayed” schedule. This one couldn’t find their snow pants. This one had lost their long underwear. This one was screaming they “hated this outfit because it was so, so uncomfortable!!” And then came the hunt for accessories. Last year’s snow boots were too small. The mittens were “annoying” and the gloves were “SUPER annoying.” Somehow, the troops came together, successfully dressed for the elements. A minor miracle, if you ask me!

As the kids filed out the door, each in their hat, gloves, snow pants, and a smile so big it could only mean, “It’s a snow day and school was CANCELED,” I was overcome with a gut-punching nostalgia, causing the photo reel of my mind to spin and spin. There he was seeing snow for the very first time! And there she was in her very first snowsuit. There they were making snow angels in the park. And there they were, squealing with delight as snowflakes danced on their tongues.

I saw a picture of them all dressed for sledding, but it was from six years ago and then four years ago, and then two. And then they were right in front of me, the same, but oh so different. The smiles were a little less euphoric, a little more restrained. The hair, a little less unkempt and a little more coiffed. And the faces, a little less round, and now, a little more chiseled. As I looked at the four of my kids, in all their winter splendor, I wanted to capture this moment forever, cementing it in time, and maybe even stopping time, if only temporarily.

“Count each day,” we’re reminded in our Psalms, because every day is a gift, and life carries with it no guarantees. There is so much we don’t know, so much we can’t account for, so much we can’t ever foresee. What is here today may not be here tomorrow, and what is true in this moment may not be true in the next. October 7th is but our latest reminder, an exceedingly painful one at that.

For the world we inhabited on October 6th was very different than the one we inhabit today. The ground had not yet shifted beneath our feet. The earth had not yet ruptured. And the soil had not yet curdled with the blood of untold innocents. But one day can change everything. One day can turn the world upside down. And one day can cause an entire nation to question who they are and what they will become.

And so…What can we do? How can we live in the face of this uncertainty that governs our lives so dispassionately? Our tradition encourages us to lean, heavily, into gratitude, by savoring what we have and who we’re with, knowing these gifts could vanish the very next hour or day or week or month. Perhaps this is why our tradition urges us to say 100 blessings a day; there are so many moments, both grand and granular, to relish.

As my kids pushed the button for the elevator, I suddenly felt an urgent need to join them. I called out, “Hold it while I grab my coat!” And as we walked outside, with the snow falling gently on our backs, I stopped, simply to gaze at them, these four children who were each magnificent and extraordinary in their own unique ways. For a single, fleeting moment, I felt whole.

In a world where everything we know can shift irrevocably in an instant, let’s hold tight to the blessings in our midst. Let’s embrace and laugh with urgency and passion. Let’s say the important things to the important people. Because if we don’t say them now, we might never get the chance.

About the Author
Sara Sapadin is a rabbi and mother of four. Ordained by HUC-JIR, Sara currently serves Temple Emanu-El in New York City as an Associate Rabbi. Sara has written for a number of Jewish publications and is also a proud contributor to The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate (CCAR Press).
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