Elul Reflections: 12 Elul 5779

My wife Sue and I recently celebrated our 40thwedding anniversary.  The occasion gave me an opportunity to reflect on the years that have passed.   We’ve certainly had our difficult moments and challenging experiences, both as individuals prior to our marriage and as a couple.  My father died suddenly of a coronary when I was 17 years old.  Sue’s dad passed away more gradually when she was in her mid-twenties, just before we met.  We each experienced painful relationship breakups before we met each other. 

As a couple we lived through a grim miscarriage as well as the dreaded mishaps of child-rearing. When our first child was a young adult she was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident caused by an impatient driver.  Our second child was (mistakenly) diagnosed in her early months of life with an inner-ear disorder and had to wear gigantic hearing aids as a tiny toddler.   They made her look like Minnie Mouse.  Our third child was accident prone; he broke his arm just a few weeks after we arrived in Melbourne from the UK.  Like all parents, we suffered with our children’s traumas. 

We’ve lived through our personal traumas, as well.  Sue has had cancer not once but twice, with 21 years separating the two occurrences. To look on impotently while a loved one walks this road can be a terrible ordeal.  

Yet, despite all these misadventures and many more, large and small, I feel blessed with the life I’ve been given.   I’ve had opportunities to explore the world and to expand my horizons that far exceed those of my grandparents and even my parents.   I’ve also had precious opportunities to experience love and generosity, friendship and family affection.   I’ve been able to live a life of service to others, and I’ve been paid a salary to do what I enjoy the most, to learn and to teach!   I’ve found rich treasures in my Jewish heritage, a framework for living and a kaleidoscope of meaning that sparks colours beyond my wildest imaginings.  Most of all, I’ve been surrounded by people whose values I share.  They, too, have suffered grief and loss and distress. Yet, they, too, feel moments of blessing. 

That we can feel blessed is, in itself, a blessing.  We’re reminded of this at Rosh Hashana.  The gift of a new year is a blessing.  It reinforces our awareness that, whatever the tragedies and mishaps that might befall us in the year that lies ahead, we are also guaranteed opportunities for joy and renewal.  The sound of the shofar alerts us to this.  Rosh Hashana is a time to be mindful of how blessed we are and allow that realisation to warm our hearts like sunshine on a spring day.

-- Rabbi Fred Morgan, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda, Victoria

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