Thursday, July 2, 2015


Scenario #1: This morning, we received a call from some guy at some bank wanting to speak with Ken about retirement. We chatted for a few moments since I was the one who answered the phone and I explained how we are both happy with what we are doing, and that retirement is not an immediate plan, though I got the sense he thought this may be the case. We are happy, productive, doing important things and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.

Scenario #2: I am always learning, reading, preparing materials, writing, and … right, learning more! So I do like to keep a recreational read going as well. Last week, I went on the hunt through the thousands of books in our home to find such a book. I found an unlikely book (in the sense that this is so not what she reads) in my daughter Yoella’s room. Its title is My Grandfather’s Blessings and the author is Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D (New York: Riverhead Books, 2000). To be honest, its really not my kind of book either – a collection of 103 (according to my count, minus introductions and occasional asides) two to three page pithy essays about life, blessings, healing and all that good stuff – all of which I fervently believe in; I just enjoy a book with “more depth.” Ah, what is it they say, do NOT judge a book by its cover (or its table of contents)! I have really enjoyed this book which is about the many blessings in our lives, many of which we do not see, ignore or walk right past without a thought.

I will share the content of one essay with you, called interestingly enough (right, you guessed) Pearls of Wisdom. Rachel (as she calls herself throughout the readings so I will as well) explains how an oyster is “soft, tender, and vulnerable.” Precisely because of this, the oyster is in its shell for protection, but must keep the shell open so it can breathe. Within the cycle of breathing, because the oyster is on the ocean floor, grains of sand will come inside the shell, causing the oyster great pain. However the ocean floor is the home of the oyster and it cannot thrive anywhere else. So what does it do with these painful grains of sand? It wraps it in “thin translucent layers” and Voila! You have a pearl! A beautiful and sensitive and pure pearl! We then learn from our teacher, Rachel, that sand as well as the pain it causes is the way of life of the oyster. There really are not other choices that are viable. So a beautiful thing of beauty comes from that which causes the oyster pain. She then explains that these places of pain “are the places where wisdom begins to grow in us. It begins with suffering that we do not avoid or rationalize or put behind us.” Our capacity to understand and accept this will contribute greatly to our lives. And all of this was stated in less than two pages. Hmmmm….

Scenario #3: Yesterday in my Gemara learning (Masechet Shekalim, actually from the Talmud Yerushalmi for those who wonder), I read something that I found rather amazing. There is a discussion about the use of community funds (shekalim – a coin of designated worth – and other offerings that are made as well) for the upkeep and needs of the community and its ritual as well as pragmatic functions. In the midst of this discussion it is posited that community funds should be designated for headstones for graves. Within the various concerns related to this need, it is suggested that the most pious and righteous teachers do not need headstones on their graves because we remember and honor and continue to learn from them through their words and teachings that their students and future generations of those who have learned from their wisdom teach us.

So here are my lessons from today:

1. Pearls of wisdom are found even in places we do not expect if we are open to learning from them; and in so doing we keep important people alive and their teachings relevant and part of our daily realities.

2. We are all obligated and enjoined to pass on our teachings and learnings and gleanings of what we have learned to others so that our legacy remains part of the world.

3. Maybe the reason Ken and I do not speak about retirement is because there is a sense of purpose in our lives daily from doing just this.

Truly we are blessed and these blessings come from paying attention closely and living ….. yup, you guessed it, INTENTIONALLY!

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