Chayov adam l’halech b’emtzah v’lo y’heh noteh lo l’khan v’lo l’khan / A person is required to steer himself towards the center and not to veer to either side.
Shemaya omer: ehav et hamalacha, usoneh et harabanot v’al titvadah larashut / Shemaya taught: love (your) work, question authority and don’t become entangled with government.
Talmud Bavli, Pirkei Avot 1:10
(Hillel) hou haya omer: Eem ayn ani li, mi li? Ukh’sheani l’atzmi, mah ani? V’eem lo akhshav, aymatai?/ (Hillel) would say: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I’m only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?
Talmud Bavli, Pirkei Avot 1:14
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done
“The Gambler” by Don Schlitz, from the Kenny Rogers album The Gambler
The other day as I stood in line at a local supermarket, I overheard two women ahead of me bitterly complaining about the weather. It was in the mid-90s and each of them strived to top the other in bemoaning the heat and humidity. “I can’t take it! I can’t take it! It’s soooo awwwfulll! I’m meltin’!” one woman wailed. Her friend not to be undone yelped, “I’m sweatin’ rivers, sooo much, I’m sooo sticky!” As they were caterwauling about the summer’s heat, I couldn’t help but imagine that just a few months ago the two of them were likely whining about the long winter and when it would end. Next to me in line was a woman, who from her accent, seemed to be Caribbean, perhaps Jamaican. She smiled at me and said, “What a beautiful day this is today!” I returned her friendly smile and answered, “It’s a hot one but it’s a lush, true summer day and everything is in lovely bloom.”
This little conversational interlude served as an opportunity for my new acquaintance to share some of her personal thoughts and opinions with me. She went on, “People in this country don’t know how good they have it. I used to live in the U.K. and did you know that when you use a public restroom they sell you the toilet paper!” Continuing, she expounded on how she works hard and life isn’t always easy for her but she appreciates the opportunities she has in America and the tremendous abundance and quality of life available in this country. I was up next and that cut off our conversation. As I paid for my groceries, I smiled and waved goodbye to her as I left.
We unfortunately live in a very overly politicized and polarized time. So many people are entirely focused on demonizing political opponents and creating wedge issues that divide people in order to gain the political strength to seize control of government, which they seem to view as the answer to all of our problems. One of our society’s most trusted institutions, the news media, appears to me to have abandoned any attempt at objectivity and has instead become agenda driven and out of balance. When we focus too much on all of this societal discord, we can become quite frazzled. However, there is actually a simple remedy available to all if one is just open to it: enjoying the beauty and wonderment of summer.
Yes, the summer can be swelteringly hot and we may flee to the comfort of air conditioning, but it is lush, green, verdant, and seems to continually erupt. If you plant flowers you can enjoy their beauty and fragrance, and if you grow vegetables you can enjoy the fruits of your labors and know what you grow yourself tastes the best to you. You can just look out of your window each and every day to enjoy nature’s performance. What an exquisite balance to frosty winter. However, when that frigid winter arrives, I’ll enjoy that too, bundling up in my favorite sweaters, tweed sport jackets, and overcoats and feeling the purifying briskness of the icy cold air on my face.
We just need to take care of ourselves, be concerned for others, not see Big Brother (government) as the answer to our problems (maybe try a little prayer instead), and just cleverly play the cards that life deals us and we’ll be okay.
Enjoy the summer!
[The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Bellerose Jewish Center.]