Entering a new decade, year and quarter at the same time might cause someone to inquire about worth.
Unfortunately, there are few balance sheets to offer proper summation to a person’s worth. Making it more complicated is realizing the dividend on investments made today and tomorrow might not mature for many years. But, when they do, their value will be priceless.
In the course of three weeks, two of my middle school teachers died, as well as a classmate from rabbinical school. All in separate incidents. My two teachers left this world at a ripe age. My classmate and friend died far too soon.
When news about their respective deaths reached us, students and colleagues, we immediately began to share stories and teachings that have stuck with us for decades.
My math teacher for 7-9 grades, Mrs. Jaffe, always offered a re-test and a chance to make your grade better. She gave endless hours to teach after and before school to learn the material. She invested in EACH student.
Mrs. Levy infused a love of civics and current events. We were required in middle school to wake up every Sunday morning (before DVRs) and watch one of the morning news shows and report on it on Monday morning. The Gettysburg Address, the preamble to the Constitution and much more were on the tips of our tongues and the fronts of our minds.
35 years later, I along with scores of their students still think about their impact. To see the tributes was to see maturation on their investments.
My friend Adam and I began rabbinical school together. Though he was 10 years my senior, we were still good friends, drawn closer by a shared love of sports and laughter. We would play golf a few times a year and each time we would laugh like school children, releasing the tight valve surrounding the nature of our work.
But, when I was going through a challenging time, and in particular when tragedy struck our community with the death of a young man, my pal Adam called me only to check on ME. How I, the rabbi shepherding the community through this moment, was doing. That ethic stays with me still and makes me miss him more.
Chances are, we do not know the impact we make in our lifetimes. It takes the sad news to learn of someone leaving this world for us to recount goodness, acts of kindness, moments where they made the difference.
Perhaps for this new quarter, year and decade we should consider two new resolutions:
1) Do not wait until death to share our appreciation for another person and the positive impact they have made in shaping our character and lives.
2) That we aim to lead a life that is about making meaningful deposits in the lives of others which will allow the dividend of making our world a more fulfilled and sacred place for us to share.
That is my posture for the days and years to come. May their memories be a blessing. May they inspire us.
Shabbat Shalom and happy 2020!
Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner