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Don't worry about tomorrow, live for today

01/02/2020 03:01:47 PM

Jan2

Rabbi Dan Dorsch

This week, I was deeply saddened to find out about the tragic death of one of my colleagues, Rabbi Adam Feldman. At fifty-five years old, he was in many ways a carbon copy of me, only about twenty years ahead. Both homegrown conservative Jews, we grew up at Camp Ramah in the Poconos and served on the senior staff. We were both USY regional officers in the Hagesher region. We both served as assistant rabbis in large communities and went on to serve our own significant congregations.
 
And unfortunately, he died healthy, while on vacation with his family, during an accident that occurred when he was repelling in Hawaii.
 
I’m not sure if this is how a midlife crisis feels, but when I heard the news about Rabbi Feldman I felt like I was sucker punched in the kishkes. We had only met a year or two ago when a close mutual friend introduced us. I remember how we both chuckled at our striking similarities. I still remember the smile we gave to one another: like it was good to meet another Philadelphia kindred spirit making his way successfully through the rabbinic world.
 
That was to be our only interaction. Yet since his passing I’ve been replaying a lot of questions in my head about life to which you would think I should already know the answer. Is it really true that life is so fragile, and that the course of our existence can change in milliseconds? Yes: that is why every moment we are alive matters. Echoing the words of Moshe in the Talmud to God when seeing the suffering of Rabbi Akiva’s martyrdom, I’ve been wondering: “Is this Torah, and this its reward?” i.e. Is this really the plan that God had in mind for an absolutely wonderful human being, and a beloved, tremendously well respected leader of a Jewish community? Again, yes: terrible things can happen even to the best of God’s creations.
 
I’ve been reading (along with Danny Kleinman, my chevruta), Rabbi Lawerence Kushner’s brilliant book on Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a wealthy landowner who tries all kinds of avenues aimed at discovering the meaning and finding joy in his life. He tries partying and drinking. He then lives a life of piety. He waxes philosophy. Only the end of the book what he concludes that the secret to life is not to overthink everything, which is what we human beings have a tendency to do. Just enjoy what you have in front of you. Don’t worry about tomorrow, but live for today.
 
At Rabbi Feldman’s funeral, his family requested that the attendees wears Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers gear in honor of his lifelong love of Philadelphia sports. Following the advice of Ecclesiastes, on Sunday, I am going to try to enjoy the Eagles playoff game. Yet even as I enjoy the game, I know I will be thinking about Rabbi Feldman, and how much I might have enjoyed watching it with him.
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Thu, February 20 2020 25 Shevat 5780