Posts Tagged ‘birthday reflections’


I have no problems with the idea of turning 60. What seemed like such a large number when I was 30 was not scary at all. Just the opposite; I enjoy being at an age where I actually understand a few things – and I also know what I don’t know. I am in awe of the things I have witnessed in my lifetime, both historical and personal. It is actually fun to be able to look back and remember where I was for certain events, or my reactions to landmark movies, shows, music. It is fun to think of life in terms of the cultural contexts I have witnessed and now outlived. I have children, grandchildren, friends, and I do meaningful work in a wonderful community. When I left high school, I had the sense that the very best things in life were in front of me, not behind me. I was so right. I still feel the same way. Some of the best things are in front of me.

Nor was I upset that the actual day of my birthday would not be one of celebrating. I was fine with working that day and leading Shabbat services that night. I had been able to celebrate in NYC earlier in the week with my wife, one daughter and 3 grandchildren. I saw two great shows and spent time with friends. Even more, next weekend a lot of family and friends will be gathered at our home as we celebrate the Hebrew naming of my newest grand daughter. So the fact that my actual birthday was just another work day was no problem. I could not be prepared for what the day actually brought.

How can I describe it? I did nothing unusual, yet it was a day filled with joy and blessing – all because of technologies that did not exist when I was born or for most of my life. I woke up to texts on my phone and a bunch of Facebook messages wishing me a “happy birthday.” Many of them were just the quick 2 word greeting, but many, far more than I would have thought, were much more. I was the recipient of lovely messages from people who I never thought would know it was my birthday (I often don’t see the birthday reminders that Facebook provides). Friends from all over sent their love in special messages. Colleagues took time to wish me a special “Shabbat shalom” along with a “happy birthday.” I spoke to my two oldest friends – a set of twins I met when I was 9 – as they share my same birthday. This being a supposed “big one” we tracked each other down to exchange news and greetings. I finally caught up with them by cell phone as they were in a restaurant having a late dinner. I had calls, messages and texts from friends covering all the stages of my life – from high school, the years of raising our family, my business years and my career change to the rabbinate. These greetings were like a quick summary of the many connections I have made in my life.

So what I anticipated would be just another day – my celebrations were scheduled for other times – turned out to be a day filled with amazing blessing. I loved going on Facebook every few hours to see the lineup of messages. I loved the phone call from a congregant who, for a long time, was not very connected to the congregation, but called to tell me how much he appreciates the friendship we have been forming over the past year. I loved that every time my cell phone buzzed it was exciting and fun. So an ordinary day became special because people reached out through the various media and connected to me.

Of course there is a Torah message in all of this, because Torah works that way. This past Shabbat’s Torah portion was Naso, which includes the priestly benediction used so often by clergy of many faiths to offer blessing. As I prepared for Friday night’s d’var Torah, I had a little bit of a revelation. This blessing, like so many of the blessings in the Tanach, are not offeredby God. Rather, God instructs Moses to tell Aaron this will be the way the priesthood is to bless the people of Israel. And that is the real nature of blessings, they are the gifts that people convey to other people. We often say that God has blessed us, but really, it is the actions and words of the people in our lives who have blessed us. They, we, are God’s agents in this world. For blessings establish a kind of covenant between us. They bind us in a link forged for common goodness, common enjoyment. On my 60th birthday, I finally understood the power of those blessings.

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