Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Footprints in the Snow

The UOJ Archives - December 2010

December (Kislev) was always my favorite month. For many reasons. I was born within a few hours of that day of the other well-known charismatic Jew -- with dark hair and a beard. I am craftier than he was though, the Establishment's attempt to nail me to the shtender was unsuccessful; and that's where the similarities end, depending on who you talk to of course.

The cold weather was a reprieve for me from the hot New York summers. The lights of Chanukah burning bright in our window; and the peace that came along with the long winter nights was inspirational. As my children grew, it became our most festive Jewish holiday; dancing together around the lit menorah.

I was always puzzled why Chanukah was so dear to me. Perhaps because one of my names in Aramaic means flame/torch and the other name means "bright one" or "shining one" in German? And yes, I loved the snow, that beautiful white snow that covered and brightened the filthy New York streets, seeming, at least temporarily, to cover the dark secrets of those streets. As a child, snowball fights were actually a neighborhood event. Parents would join in to help their kids slug it out with their friends.

And when we moved into the new neighborhood, the closest shul that I felt comfortable with was on the other side of the tracks. There was a new shtibel being set up in the living room of a very nice man. It was hard to say no to him, although I never found my place there. So I found myself mostly walking over to my parents home and davening with my father at his local shtibel. Initially, thinking somehow I could make it work. I hate shtibels, every community member should belong to a shul with a real rav, not some hokey-pokey voodoo kook, or a flunky with flair.

I remember getting up very early in the winter months when it snowed, sitting in my beautiful bechora's room, watching her sleep, constantly putting my hand by her nose to make certain she was breathing, and watching the snow fall and enjoying the peace that it brought me. There's something special forever for the child that made you a father. There was not a living soul yet in the street at 4 a.m.

I would be in her room until 5 a.m. or so, when off I went by foot to say a shiur to the two elderly Jews at the local synagogue (as opposed to a shul) where I davened shacharit in the weekdays as well. From two elderly Jews it became three, four, five...the aged and infirmed rabbi could not believe his eyes. He barely had a minyan until I moved in, in less than six months there were some twenty five people davening at the 6 o'clock minyan.

I would have liked to believe that on those snowy mornings, my footprints in the snow that I left going to daven, would be there on the way home. Of course, that never happened. Other people were walking the streets as well, or the snow turned to slush, or rain washed it away.

Or maybe they're still there, I just can't see them.

Life moves along, and we moved away...there were shuls, shtibels and kosher establishments galore.

The new neighborhood was aesthetically beautiful; shortly after we moved we were blessed with my youngest favorite child. She drove me nuts; the more the merrier. She could do no wrong, ever!

It was full of plastic people and I had a difficult time getting used to the "what's in it for me" mentality. So I went about my business focusing on my career and my family. "They" tried to induce and seduce me into getting involved in what they called "community affairs"; I called it mundane affairs of ego-maniacs who would do anything to see their names on buildings, organization stationary, and getting to sit on a table slightly elevated from the other tables at school dinners.

I left footprints in the sand; I'm fairly certain the low tides washed them away.

Or maybe they're still there, I just can't see them.

And as I became ashamed of myself for not getting with the program -- my staff operated the computers for my organization, I was still using my Rolodex, had a massive business card album comprising some 7200 business cards of every person I ever met who had one, and dictating letters to my assistant, I took a beginners class in January 2005 at a local computer training school. They taught me how to turn on the computer, the basics of e-mail, and how to get online.

And one evening in March 2005 I came across a Blog, I said to myself, "I can do that", and so I did.

I left footprints in cyberspace; the Establishment attempted to "wash them away".

They're still there, and the world sees them!