Rabbi Gershon Avtzon

The last few months have been anything but normal. Whether it has been the self-quarantine, - as a result of the Coronavirus - or the self-expression, demonstrations, and looting that we have seen all across the country, it just seems that our pre-corona “normal” is not returning in the near future. 

From every situation that we live through, there are lessons that need to be learned and internalized. Understanding that G-d Almighty is the orchestrator of all events in our lives, with his Divine Providence, demands from us a resolve to think about the messages that are being sent to us from above. If there is one theme that keeps recurring over the last while, it is that “Life matters”. 

The sanctity of life is paramount in the Jewish religion. There is no spiritual obligation, even the observance of Yom Kippur, that comes before life. We have seen this message in the extreme over the last few months: The two most vital places for Jewish community are our Synagogues and schools. It is there we personally connect to Hashem and where our children get educated in our holy heritage - the Torah. Yet, without exception, all schools and synagogues closed until the virus was contained. This is more evident in our home state of Ohio, where we were  blessed with the policy of our Governor who did not mandate that places of worship be closed, and yet they all did. Why? Because life matters. 

The same is true with the true message of the demonstrations that we have seen. It was to bring out the true message that life - even the life of someone is in trouble with the law - matters. It is a shame that the lawlessness, looting and anarchy that has evolved has truly served as a distraction from the inner message and demand for equality and value of life of all people. 

Together with the realization that life matters must come the realization that it also matters how we live our lives. Every soul was sent to the world with a mission and purpose, and we must live our lives in accordance and fitting to that purpose. We must not live empty and unfulfilled lives. 

How do we bring meaning and purpose into our lives? I would suggest that we take a lesson from the word LIFE itself. Life can be seen as an acronym of Learning Is For Everyone. Learning fuels our growth. A person that is learning is a person that is growing. We become stagnant and empty when we stop learning. Learning does not have to be through books or texts, it can be a reflection of our experiences and the behaviors of our parents, friends and neighbors. There is no age-limit to learning, as the old motto from the summer-camps of my youth that signaled the end of the daily learning class: “Learning never ends, learning never ends” 

We, the Jewish people, are so lucky and privileged that G-d Almighty gave us a guide for a meaningful life; the Torah. The Torah is called “Toras Chaim - the Torah of Life”. It is not a “living document”, whose laws change with the times, rather a “Torah of life” - it actually enhances and brings meaning and purpose into our lives. 

With the summer months upon us, and internalizing the message that life matters, it is time to really think about our lives and the lives of our children. Besides being registered in sports leagues, music and gymnastics, are our children registered for any Jewish education classes? It can be Jewish day school, Sunday school or after-school, the venue is less important than the commitment. 

The same is true for adults: Besides our personal and business responsibilities and commitments, are we making the time to connect to our personal inheritance—i.e., The Torah? Our example to our children that Torah learning, and growth in our Judaism, is important to us, is the best way that our children learn to continue in that path. 

We all have free choice, yet G-d Almighty cries out and begs (Deuteronomy 30:19) “ Choose Life”! 

Shabbat Shalom! 

You can email Rabbi Gerson Avtzon at  lessonsinlife@americanisraelite.com.

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