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Reclaiming the Rhythm of Life

Tuesday, 12 May, 2020 - 9:53 am

20200505_141030.jpgThe other day I had to go into Boston to get some things from the Jewish Day School where I teach and my kids learn, and two of my sons excitedly joined me for the trip. The thrill of this exhilarating road trip was palpable as we drove on the highway for the first time in months and the grinding trip which we normally did in gridlock traffic every single school day, suddenly became the most cool and fun trip. The kids marveled at the empty highways, the construction sites which had changed dramatically over the last few months, and at the city of Boston which seemed almost deserted and sleepy.

As we drove down the Masspike and chatted together it got me thinking about something that has been on my mind for the last few months, and that is the pace of our lives. Suddenly despite life still being very busy and long days with balancing the needs of our family and community, the pressures of running here and there, car pool, traffic, and the never ending grind of daily life, have decreased dramatically.

The mornings start off calmly with no running to car pool to beat the traffic and shorten the seventy five minute ride and instead it is a slow start with a walk or bike ride to Chabad with some of my children. The walk or bike ride itself usually sometime before 8am is an amazing experience, as we breathe in the air from the fresh spring mornings, get animated by the blooming flowers and budding trees surround us, enjoy listening to the birds chirp and watching the chipmunks scurry, and with all of that almost never hearing a car engine.

The slow pace continues as we get to study something together or alone and then pray together at Chabad, sometimes doing it outdoors in the beautiful nature. I then begin to teach for two hours online on Zoom with my class of students at the New England Hebrew Academy which includes my son Zalman, while at the same time each of our other children go off to their own schooling experience.

Chana learns on Zoom with her school in New York from her bedroom classroom, but with classmates from across the country and in different time zones. Likewise for Levi who has setup his room as a mini Yeshiva and has a virtual study schedule for most of the day, his rhythm includes lessons from his teachers and study partners with classmates from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York, Mendel learns in Zoom at his school in Boston and Devorah Leah enjoys half an hour of Zoom School with her class and friends.

It is a new world and the kids have adapted quickly as they have figured out how to continue learning, maintain their own disciplined structure (besides going to sleep on time), keep up with friends and at the same time enjoy a much slower and more relaxed pace of life. There is time for daily biking, small hikes, discovering new places in nature where we live, playing more games with each other, a few extra wrestles, time for self-discovery and learning to use their own creativity, lots of fun and baking in the kitchen, lots of gardening and planting seeds and plants, more learning of things they want to learn, and so much more family time.

Even as I hope and pray for us to all be healthy and return to a normal life soon, part of me thinks, that the current situation has allowed us to touch on and reclaim part of what is naturally a critical part of a healthy dynamic of balanced, purposeful and meaningful living. We are truly loving watching our kids and family enjoy more close time with each other, having more time to simply be kids, being able to enjoy nature and the outdoors more and all of this while still living a productive, meaningful and growth oriented life.

Last Shabbos, after 14 years of living at our home, we decided to have Shabbat lunch on our deck, something we have never done. As we sat there, chatting, singing, eating and watching the tall pine trees sway in the warm breeze, we couldn’t help but be thankful for the blessing of being able to connect and enjoy our time as a family in a deeper and more meaningful manner.

Today on the Jewish Calendar is a unique day that is known as Pesach Sheini, the second Passover. It is a day that originated when the Jews were in the desert thousands of years ago and some of them were busy taking care of deceased people and couldn’t observe Passover. When they complained and said that they lost out, G-d instructed that they be given a second Passover and it will be for anyone who missed out on the first one for any given reason. Since then, the one day second Passover which falls a month after the first Passover, has become synonymous with the message of Judaism of having a second chance at life and everything that we deal with.

As I contemplate the message of this day and connect that with my thoughts on the rhythm and pace of family life and personal relationships, I think that besides all of the huge challenges and tragedies that the Coronavirus has brought to the world, we should also find a way to use this time of dramatic change of pace and life, to face our relationships, to reflect on our connection with our family members, to think about our personal and family rhythm of life, and to use this time as a period of personal growth and relationship improvement.

Let us hope and pray that as the curve begins to flatten and then recede and G-d willing life will soon be able to return to a new normal, we will not only be a society that is healthier physically, we will also each be healthier in terms of focus on priorities of life, healthier relationships and family dynamics, better and more conducive life structures and rhythms, and a deeper appreciation for the care and well being for society at large.

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