“Choose Life!” By Mordechai Rosenstein
My many years of rabbinical experience have taught me that the greatest privilege and weightiest challenges of the rabbinate are multifold. One of the gifts that I treasure the most in my rabbinate is to help every individual find meaning and comfort at times of joy and times of sadness. Even at times of sadness, there are often times when we can find laughter between the tears. This applies even in my personal life. Some of you are aware that this past year, the youngest of my four brothers, Ari, underwent extensive surgery and chemotherapy/immunotherapy for Stage 4 metastatic lymphoma. As 2023 begins, my family and I are breathing a little easier and are hopeful as Ari is now in remission (“k’nein ahora, tu tu tu” – as my late mother would say)>
Ari is resilient and is a fighter. He made the decision at the start of his diagnosis to “choose life” even when he wasn’t sure what the outcome of his treatment would be, or what “choosing life” would entail. We marveled at his spirit, his sense of humor, his horrible jokes, his compassion for his health care team, friends and family who supported him/still support him on this journey.
I share this because I am privileged to bear witness to so many of you who experience similar life experiences. I am in awe of your courage, your fortitude, your tenacity, your inner strength, your zest for “choosing life” without knowing where that path may lead. Please know that I am here to support you however you need.
We learn from our tradition that the journeys of our lives may take unknown twists and turns, and that life is a gift that we must embrace above all. At times it will seem difficult, but we have our community, our family, our friends and God to support us and strengthen us along the way.
Our Torah portion for this week, Vayechi, exemplifies how Jacob, who was so broken when he thought his young son Joseph was killed many years ago, persevered and lived despite his loss. Vayechi means “and he lived.” Jacob lived despite his loss, despite his grief, despite his pain. We learn from Jacob that Jewish resilience is a distinct kind of strength. It has something to do with the ability to cope when hardship comes along. It has to do with time. When the Jewish People is faced with adversity, our greatest evidence that we can endure it is the past and our greatest motivator to endure it is the future.
As each of us approaches the days, weeks and months ahead, we will each face our own challenges, big or small either by choice or by happenstance. If we find strength, fortitude and resilience, along with faith in God’s abiding presence in our midst, we too, can reach that summit and rejoice in the beautiful view at the top.
Esa enai, el he-harim, me-ayin ya-voy ezri?
Ezri, me-yim Adonai, oseh Shamayim, va’aretz.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Eternal, maker of Heaven and Earth. (Psalm 121)
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom