November/December 2018 – Cheshvan/Kislev/Tevet
By Gene Lindow
I can share with you that as an adult, since I reached the age of 30, I have not made a big deal about the day I was born, and this year was no different. But I am blessed with family and friends who work hard to make it special for me and not just another day.
So where am I going with this? In Judaism we put more emphasis on the Yahrzeit – the anniversary of a person’s death – than on the day that the world was blessed as that person became a member of the human race.
I remember a Midrash (commentary in the Talmud) in Niddah 30b that says, “the fetus while in the womb is taught the entire Torah, and upon birth the knowledge and understanding is taken away.” What is the connection? Throughout the Torah, we see time and again our ancestors making decisions that we question. Why? Very simply, we have the power to make decisions about how to act – we have FREE WILL.
The paths we take in life are full of decisions, hard work, disappointments, and triumphs. Whether we are Torah scholars or laypersons, how we react to everything influences many people in our lives, and by default we become teachers. It is the journey of life, the “STUFF-challenges” that happen in between our birthdays and our deaths, that make the difference.
May our paths be paths that inspire. May the struggles we face not cause us to question our core beliefs, distract us from making correct decisions, or cause us to take improper detours on our paths. As we face our challenges and stay on our paths, our names and Neshamot (souls) will live on within the ones whom we have touched.