After Rabbi Milton Steinberg recovered following his heart attack he walked out into the bright midday sun. He thought, “How precious — how careless.” Life is so precious and we are so careless with it. How can we pay so little heed when we know that everything cherished must end? Perhaps we fear that if we care too much, the losses of life will be unbearable.
Building from that moment Steinberg wrote that we should hold life dear, but because we realize that everything is temporary, we cannot hold it too close. How do we live knowing that all we find so wondrous, so beautiful, can be gone in an instant? This is how Steinberg concludes in words written more than half a century ago: “And only with God can we ease the intolerable tension of our existence. For only when He is given, can we hold life at once infinitely precious and yet as a thing lightly to be surrendered. Only because of Him is it possible for us to clasp the world, but with relaxed hands; to embrace it, but with open arms.”
As this Shabbat approaches, remember Steinberg’s legacy: the wisdom to cherish and to let go. The wisdom of holding with open arms.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Lost Angeles. Follow his teachings at www.facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.
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