By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
I’d like to share with you a thought I’ve been living with over the past couple of weeks as my family and I shared in each other’s company — in very close proximity — during a summer road trip as we have done many times in past years.
The thought I have been focusing upon during this time is to be “in the moment.” It’s so easy to have the time pass by, paying attention to details of the trip while neglecting to fully appreciate the most important detail of all: spending quality time with the very people you most love!
I’ll never forget the time, a number of years ago, when some of the kids and I were visiting friends at their lake house in East Texas. I was in the water holding on to the dock while my kids were jumping over me into the water, myself deep in thought over certain upcoming programs and issues that I needed to deal with upon returning to Dallas.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that here I am, on a gorgeous day, surrounded by some of the most idyllic scenery the planet has to offer with my beloved children around me having a great time and I’m not even there!
That recognition hit me like a ton of bricks and I spent the rest of that day focusing on what was happening around me and living in the present. What a different experience!
Our Sages teach that this is implicit in the verse “choose life” (Deut. 30:19). The simple meaning of this verse is that free choice is presented in our hands to choose spiritual life or death.
It goes without saying that this, among many verses, is the source of the Jewish weltenschaung with its stress upon the priceless value of every moment of life, in stark contrast to the shocking outlook of the Muslim world we are now experiencing with their infatuation with death.
The deeper message of choosing life is to choose to actually live one’s life; to make every moment count as that moment will never return again, so live it now to the fullest with all the meaning and growth that can be squeezed out of it.
A leading sage of the past generation, Rabbi Yitzchok Hunter ob’m, once proclaimed that every moment of one’s life should be so full of life that if one would stab it, it would draw blood.
With that, he was delivering a subtle rebuke that we often live lifeless moments, moments that would not “draw blood if stabbed,” and that’s not really living at all, just passing time with bodily functions.
Instead, the Al-mighty, who granted us the gift of life out of his desire to bestow good upon us, exhorts us to “choose life” and truly get the most out of each moment of our lives. This is only possible if we live the moments of the lives gifted to us, appreciating our families, friends, surroundings and small momentary opportunities to grow.
Hopefully we will make use of the final days of our breaks with our families and ourselves to take this lesson as a guide throughout the entire year.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.