July 13, 2024
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July 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

There was a time when it was possible to make a plane reservation in February for a trip scheduled for the following December. It was prior to the days when airlines insisted on having tickets issued at the time of a reservation or within 24-72 hours after booking. Nina in her role as a travel agent in Montreal often spoke how it amazed her that many people would call her as soon as they returned from their snowbird days in Florida in March and immediately make reservations for their return to their Florida retreats the following November. It all seemed so sure and certain. Once a school calendar was issued, trips were planned for the family during the school break months in advance.

But sometimes even the “best-laid plans” go awry. Couples decide not to have children until they are ready—after they have “really gotten to know each other,” after they have had “some fun,” or perhaps “reached a financial plateau,” often to find out that when they are ready their bodies are not. Pregnancy becomes an issue.

Older couples speak of their forthcoming retirement. They think of the travel they will do, the courses that they will take, the volunteer agencies they will work for, only to find out that one partner is not well and the other partner becomes a caretaker.

In the past several weeks we have lost several good friends in Montreal. Both passed away in entirely different circumstances but both were living rich, creative lives dedicated to their families and their community.

In the first case, Rabbi Sidney Shoham, a rabbi’s rabbi in Montreal, had been the emcee of a cantorial concert on the Sunday night before the chagim were to begin. The concert was sold out and Rabbi Shoham, as a lover of chazanus, was proud that the event was taking place in his shul although he had retired from the active rabbinate several years earlier. Following the concert Rabbi Shoham went home with his wife Jewel and never woke up the following morning. True, he was 86 years old, however, he looked many years younger and was vibrant and full of vitality. Everyone in the city of Montreal loved him. He never judged people—always recalled their names and special things about them. As our daughter Malkie told us, whenever she was in the Shoham home on a Shabbos he always gave her a bracha and treated her as one of his own daughters. His youngest daughter, Donna, and Malkie were best friends growing up together. His funeral took place Erev Yom Kippur. There were 1,500 people present and it was followed by four hours of shiva. Everyone said that his funeral was similar to that of a head of state. The Shohams had tickets to fly to Los Angeles the day after Yom Kipur so that they could spend Sukkot with their daughter Mindy and her family.

Last week, on Sunday, we received the horrific news that a good friend, a young woman, 53 years old, had passed away after having been taken to the hospital by ambulance on Shabbos, the day before. She had a rampant bacterial infection which they were not able to treat. Judy Brook was the mother of four. As her older son said, people were trying to make him feel better by telling him that “this is life.” He said “ This is not life. My mother has three children that she will never see married and many grandchildren that will one day be born without her knowing them. This is not life.” Everyone knew that Judy and Avi’s home was open to everyone and anyone. Her children’s friends would come over to the house and hang out with her. Every Israeli shaliach for the Kollel Torah M’tzion spent time chilling at the Brook’s home. She was 14 when she met Avi and he was 17. They married when she was 17 and he was 20. Now what?

Do we really learn from these tragedies? We all talk about the fact that it reminds us to make the most of each day and it acts as a reminder to tell those we love how important they are to us. Suddenly little annoying things come up—a wife thinks that her spouse is showing favor to one specific child, a mother-in-law makes a comment that doesn’t sit well, the school sends home a note criticizing the way a child is behaving in class and suggesting a meeting be in order, a lady in the park deems it necessary to discipline a child whose mother is but four feet away. We get angry at our spouse for spending too much time at the office—we criticize our sister/brother for not being more involved in a parent’s care—we stop talking to a friend because they didn’t call on the phone often enough. Suddenly, boom—something happens and there is no more spouse, parent, sibling, friend—all of those things that we actually wanted to say to clear the air. Suddenly all of the times that we should have bitten our tongues and didn’t. Suddenly all of the times that we wanted to pick up the phone to forgive and forget and we didn’t. Suddenly all of the times that we wanted to say to a spouse that we love them and are so grateful that they are our mates. Wait—a person cannot die—I didn’t say all of the things that I meant to. I didn’t tell them. It’s not fair. Too late. Now at this very minute is the time to say and do all of the things that you procrastinate about saying. Don’t let the time fly by—we never know when it is over.

Make this very minute the most special and the most meaningful no matter how busy. Planning is a luxury that we are allowed. Whether or not anything really comes into fruition has little to do with us.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick

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