August 15, 2022, Israel
On Facebook they have this habit of showing you a photo you posted on this date some years ago, and today a photo popped up, of my mom. I took that photo four years ago, in our mall, she is sitting down, with her Zero Coke, and smiling. But now, tears flow down my cheeks. The caption on the photo is "Mom is doing great", and I think what would I give to have another moment like that.
But do we appreciate these moments, or are we always in a hurry, we have things to do, places to be. Can we simply stop, relax, and bask in the glory of a moment without thinking of what we need to do later?
This is something I have been working on for years.
I look at that Zero coke, she always wanted her Zero Coke. And it makes me think...
We Jews have customs for everything, as Tevye the Milkman would say, (Fiddler on the Roof), how to eat, how to dress, how to pray....yes, we do. And some may think this is odd, but it is not odd, it is beautiful. Everything in our life has meaning and nothing is taken as trivial. So one of our quirky rules is that when you enter a cemetery a man must tuck in his little prayer shawl. If you don't know about that, I will attach a video from Fiddler on the Roof. Tradition!
We wear a little prayer shawl at all times to remind us of our devotion to God so that everyone knows who he is and what God expects of him. This prayer shawl is a commandment written in the Hebrew Bible and we have been wearing these prayer shawls for over three thousand five hundred years. But when we enter the home of the dead, the cemetery, we tuck it in. Why? We are told it is mocking the dead, as if to say, Look at me! I am alive and I can fulfill this commandment of wearing a prayer shawl, but you the dead, you can no longer do this act of devotion to God.
Out of respect for the feelings of the dead, we tuck in the prayer shawl, we do not display it. Sensitivity. And this brings us to another point. The rabbis say, Look at this world. What a wonderful world it is!! for the price of a few pennies we can perform a "Mitzvah", a commandment of God. We can put a few coins in the "pushke" the little charity box in our homes or in the shul (synagogue), we can purchase a prayer book, we can purchase a candle to make a blessing. For the price of only a few pennies we can do an act of kindness and devotion.
Ah, look at this world, what a wonderful place it is indeed! Even if we have no money, we can take a minute and smile at someone. We can take a moment to say, Hello Friend, how are you? We can do what God expects us to do, we can take a moment to help an hold lady with a shopping bag, we can linger after the morning prayers and chat with an old man and hear his stories, ah, the things we the living can do.
And I am reminded of the Coke Zero.
When my dear mother was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy treatment, and I would say, Mom, can I get you anything? Yeah Moshe, get me a Zero. And WOW, I could do something for my dear mother. "Honor Thy Father and thy Mother". For the small effort of running down to the kiosk I could fulfill such a great commandment. And then, later on, when the cancer took over and was on the road to victory, and my dear mother was lying so helplessly in the hospice and she would whisper, I am parched, Moshie, bring me my Coke Zero, and I would feel such a feeling of exaltation, such a feeling of "I am able once more to honor my mother, yes!! what a great privilege", and I would run get her the drink and bring to her lips.
Ah, the things we can do in this world. What a great privilege it is to be alive. For the price of a few pennies, for a few moments of our time, we can do such great things. The living can do, but the dead can no longer, and this is our privilege.
Throughout our lives our goal is to refine ourselves, to become better human beings, to become more patient, to listen, to understand, to care. But the clock is ticking and no man lives forever. These are the times we have and this is our task. And I think, I long for the days where for the price of Coke Zero I could bring a smile to my mother's face, a smile that is worth a million dollars. "I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles, my sweet Mame" (Al Jolson)