Life Moves Too Swiftly to Be Early

by Rabbi Lee Friedlander

Dear Friends,

Being habitually early can be just as annoying to others as being habitually late.  I know because I am of the early arrivers. My dear sister (of blessed memory) would lie about the start time for family events. She always added at least an hour to my invitation so that I would come at the same time as everyone else. Although I am an optimistic person, as a compulsive person, and as a Jew, as a rabbi, and as a New Yorker, I have a sense of inevitability that, well, you never know what’s gonna happen.

This thought definitely informs my work. I try to stay three sessions ahead of the class in my seminar preparations, and I always have a couple of Friday night services in the bag, just in case. So it will surprise no one to learn that I am particularly compulsive about the High Holidays.  I make comments on the service outlines at the end of each service.  I collect poetry, quotations from, newspaper and magazine clippings, and write titles and outlines for possible talks throughout the year. Though literally having material in the box when I begin my preparation in earnest immediately after Pesah, this exercise is often for naught when it comes to topics for talks.  Reading selections can usually withstand the passage of time, but what to talk about even a few weeks in advance of the Holidays can prove to be fruitless. Two years ago, I ended up writing two new addresses a week before Rosh HaShanah. What I had written was no longer relevant – to me.

A lot of this has to do with life itself.  Life is just too damned dynamic.  Two days ago I looked at the Sweet 100’s in the garden, and I worried over their survival. This morning their branches were bent heavy under the weight of tiny green orbs.  On Father’s Day, I sat next to my three-year-old grandson, Izzy, at a ballgame wondrous that he could identify the airline of every plane flying overhead. (He didn’t realize that you’re supposed to watch the field and not the sky for the action.) How and when did he learn to do that?  As for his sister, Lainie, age six, she volunteered what happens when the pitcher fails to deliver the ball within the allotted time under baseball’s new rules. I had no idea they had changed the rules; I had no idea Lainie had any interest in the game.   From then until now, Prigozhin confronted Putin, the Supreme Court ruled limiting State control over elections (who could have predicted that?), and Sheldon Harnick died.

All this, and we haven’t yet reached the Fourth of July.  And we’re months away from Rosh HaShanah to say nothing of Yom Kippur. From now until then, new beings will enter the world, and old ones will move past life.  I will have eaten the Sweet 100’s and some squash (thanks to a phantom gardener), squash that now exists only ‘in the mind of God’  Politicians will campaign for an election more than a year away (talk about annoyance at early ‘comers’), and people will die in war, and people will die for peace, and some will live in peace. There are too many possibilities to contemplate or prepare for the year 5784. Maybe this year I’ll wait until September to write and spend the summer watching the skies for planes with Izzy, or even for stars.

I wish you a pleasant summer busy with gazing and wonder.