Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides: Rosh Hashanah and the sweetness of the ordinary

by Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides 

Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides

(AJNews) – In the 2006 fantasy/comedy film, Click, Adam Sandler plays a harassed 40-something trying to juggle the challenges of making a living with being a good husband, father, and son to his ageing parents. He comes across a magical universal remote control and discovers that, with a simple click of a button, he can fast-forward through the tiresome, boring, and annoying parts of his life. Fights with his wife, long hours at the office, and the grunt-work of parenting his little ones are passed over so he can get to the good stuff like receiving a promotion and accolades at work. The technology becomes so adept at forwarding over the less-interesting moments that Sandler’s character doesn’t even have to push the button – the remote just ‘knows’ – and this is when things start to go horribly wrong.

Sandler’s character starts missing out on great swathes of his life – he gets thrust forward in time to find that his young children are surly teenagers; more time travel and he learns that his father has passed away; another long push and Sandler learns that he’s been so robotic and unavailable during his ‘forwarding times’ that his beloved wife leaves him for someone more responsive.

I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that Sandler’s character learns very quickly that fast-forwarding over the more tiresome aspects of one’s existence may mean missing some of life’s most sweet and meaningful moments in the process.

This movie has an important message for us these days. As we enter into the introspective weeks approaching Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are challenged in our tradition with Cheshbon HaNefesh – an accounting of the soul. We must take stock and ask questions about how we treated our family, our friends, strangers, and even ourselves. Were we present and mindful, or were we phoning it in? Rabbi Mendy Kaminker says: Once you have a better picture of who you are now, and who you’d like to be, then come the High Holidays you are ready to get under the hood and make the necessary changes and commitments.

Rabbi Ruth Adar in her blog, ‘The Coffee Shop Rabbi,’ cautions that “Cheshbon HaNefesh is not for beating ourselves up. Jewish tradition ascribes to each human being an infinite, unmeasurable worth. There is no such thing as a worthless human being in Judaism. This is not about our worth as individuals; it is about the worth of our individual behavior.” Like Missouri, the ‘show-me’ state, what matters is not our motivation or even our thoughts. In the end, the only thing that really matters are our actions.

If there are no worthless human beings in our tradition, what about worthless moments? In the in-between time of this pandemic, with its ‘two steps forward, one step back,’ it is difficult to gain momentum. We lurch toward the goal of some kind of normalcy, experiencing moments of joy and reunion, but we also feel frustration, boredom, and fear. In Yiddish, the expression ‘nish aheen une nish aheyr’ sums it up – we are neither here nor there.

It is tempting to be like Sandler’s character in the movie and wish away our days; to close our eyes, shut-down emotionally, and wait for the nightmare to pass.  That would be a missed opportunity. This pandemic has provided us with plenty of character-building moments. Over the course of the past year and a half, we realized that we took simple things for granted: being crammed onto a plane to visit family, or making small-talk with an acquaintance, or running into a store without the risk of exposure.

When we are finally able to return to those ordinary, commonplace, tedious moments that we once took for granted, will we be able to remember the sweetness they bring? How long will it be before we take them for granted again?

As much as we want to leave behind us the scourge of this virus and the fear it instills, let us not wish away our days. Every day brings its own challenges and gifts – every moment is one we won’t get back.

May the coming New Year bring love, joy, and good health to us all, and may we meet the boring, uncomfortable moments with the patience and strength to uncover their buried sweetness.

From my family to yours, Shana Tova U’metukahA Zeece une Gezint Yor!

Rabbi Ilana Krygier Lapides is a freelance, non-denominational officiant and educator in Calgary. The focus of her Rabbinate is in helping people of all ages and affiliation to create positive and meaningful relationships with their Judaism. For more information about her practice, visit www.RockyMountainRabbi.com or email Rabbi Ilana at RockyMountainRabbi@gmail.com


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