Simon and Garfunkel had it right. Sometimes we move too fast. We just need to slow down and make those important moments last.
That’s not as easy as it sounds.
Increased polarization, anxiety, and conflict fill our days and our agenda. I’ve written before about the lack of civility in our political and communal discourse today. We’ve lost our ability even to consider other diverse points of view. We have no shortage of societal and communal issues to confront and address, whether in America or in Israel. Positions remain firm and compromise ever illusive. And everything seems to be happening at lightning speed, demanding actions and responses, without much time to reflect, consider, or prepare.
With so much negative energy and turmoil happening throughout the world today, which concerns and even frightens us, it seems particularly hard this year to fully embrace the famous rabbinic dictum: “Mi she’nichnas Adar marbim b’simcha” — as we enter the Hebrew month of Adar, our Jewish tradition instructs us to increase our joy.
On a personal level, my family has been fortunate to have a good reason to escape, at least for a short time, some of these challenges of the 24-hour news cycle and to focus on love and joy this Adar. We have just returned from Israel, where we celebrated our daughter’s wedding.
Even though many people had warned us that this would happen, we found ourselves wholly unprepared for the speed with which the days had passed leading up to and including this week.
It had been a whirlwind of a romance. And a whirlwind of preparations — only 50 days from engagement to marriage, on Rosh Chodesh Adar! How fortunate and blessed we — and the young couple — were to feel the warm embrace from family and friends who came “mearbah confot ha’aretz” — from the four corners of our world — spanning six continents and representing our different life stages.
What an extraordinary and deeply meaningful celebration it was. The kallah and chatan — the bride and groom — radiated love, positivity, and optimism. We experienced how their contagious ruach, their spirit, transmitted a special energy of possibilities that inspired all. The singing, dancing, and celebrating went on for hours, elevating this union in powerful ways.
I could not have felt more privileged nor more proud.
Not reliant on daily cable TV news reports, we experienced Israel on a much deeper level this week. I can remember aspects of my first trip to Israel in 1968. I often reflect on how meaningful it has been for me to have become a bar mitzvah in Jerusalem in 1973, and how I hope my son will continue to feel the same way about his bar mitzvah there in 2012.
Now, witnessing our daughter’s own deep desire to become firmly rooted in the land and the state of Israel, we see that she fulfills the Zionist dream of my bubby, who transmitted it to my mama, who in turn transmitted it to me. From generation to generation — 120 years after the First Zionist Congress and soon to be 75 years since Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The words of Hatikvah resonate: Lehiyot am chofshi be’artzenu, eretz Zion ve’Yerushalayim — To be free in our own land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.
My wife and I both felt that we were having an out-of-body experience, as if we were viewing the proceedings from the drone hovering above. Each aspect of the wedding ceremony had special significance and meaning. Blessing Esther at the bedekken. Walking her down the aisle. Seeing our bride’s beauty shine brightly, both inside and out. Feeling the groom’s genuine personality, excitement, and spirituality. The outpouring of love and joy.
We just wanted to slow down and soak it all in even more, making these special moments last as long as possible.
Tears came to my eyes as I remembered the words “Fiddler on the Roof’s” Tevye sings in “Sunrise, Sunset”: “Is this the little girl I carried…when did she get to be a beauty…what words of wisdom can I give them…how can I help to ease their way?” The chorus captures the day-by-day passage of time: “…swiftly flow the days. Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze…swiftly fly the years. One season following another, laden with happiness, and tears.”
We now return home to reality after our very emotional and momentous week. We hope and pray that throughout their lives, our bride and groom will find appropriate ways to slow down and make these very special moments last. And that we too will be able to return to the pure joy and love that we witnessed this week when the news gets too dark, and the days flow by so fast.
Jeremy J. Fingerman has been the CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp since 2010, and he is a vice president of JPRO Network, the network of North American Jewish communal professionals. He lives in Fort Lee with his family. Write to him at Jeremy@jewishcamp.org.