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Appreciating every day as a gift

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As we head toward Yom Kippur – effectively our annual judgement day – how many of us contemplate what this means for us?

This weekend, G-d is meant to decide who will live and who will not. This is such a huge issue to contemplate, something most of us would rather avoid.

The truth is, wondering about it and ruminating over what could happen is certainly not going to achieve anything but angst and despair, which isn’t productive or even vaguely helpful.

And so, we make our apologies, asking forgiveness from those we have wronged, and contemplate how we can improve our lives.

The point, as I see it, is that every single day of our lives is a gift. This is my take-home learning from Yom Kippur this year.

Gifts are something to cherish. Yes, of course, there are those who look a proverbial gift horse in the mouth, and if their gift doesn’t measure up to their standards, they discard it or don’t appreciate it.

Most of us, though, aim to use our gifts wisely and with love.

That means appreciating every day we have, and making the most of it. It means waking up in the morning, and wondering what we can do to make this day special. What can each of us do to make the world a better place? How can we spread some happiness or enhance someone’s life?

Now, perhaps this sounds far-fetched and a bit airy fairy because who is going to remember to do this every day? Life is busy, and there is so much to worry about and do. We all have stresses and strains that keep our minds occupied and often keep us awake at night.

We all have a great deal on our plates at any given time and, while living life to the fullest may be something we contemplate on Yom Kippur, is it really doable?

I think it is. Like any habit, you need to put it in place and work on it daily until it becomes an integral part of your life.

There are many who before they go to sleep at night, write down something or three things they are grateful for from the day. Others do this on social media. Some even blog about it.

There are as many who lie awake at night with regrets, beating themselves up about things they did that they aren’t happy with. How many times every day do you say something ugly (in your head) about yourself? How many times a day do you judge or say something unkind about someone else? There are few who aren’t a little guilty of this. I can’t say I’m squeaky clean either.

We do this every day, so why can’t we make a point of waking up to do something worthwhile and positive.

For some, that may be feeding the starving or changing the world. For others, it may be making their child smile or laugh. It also may be keeping in touch with an elderly aunt and calling her regularly.

It could be making a commitment to doing charity work, or even putting money aside for charity. Perhaps just making an effort to greet people when we go about our business every day would be good.

It doesn’t have to take much – or it could take everything that you are – to make each day that much more special.

Our story on page 3 about Rikki Kotzen features a woman who gave life her all in spite of much hardship and pain. And while her life was cut short just as she was found true happiness, she still managed to live life to the full.

In her case, she was constantly reminded of her mortality. We don’t need that to appreciate what we have.

It’s so easy to be grumpy and look at all the things that are wrong in our lives. When you focus on that, you can find so much. But if you look at life as a gift, it automatically looks better. You hear the birds singing, and notice the blossoms on the trees. Somehow, even fasting on Yom Kippur seems like something to treasure and savour.

Over Rosh Hashanah, I got to see a few precious people in my life, most of whom I haven’t spent time with for ages because of lockdown. Yes, we were masked and kept a social distance, but I can’t tell you how I valued those hours of connection. That’s what happens when we are deprived of something, and then get it back.

My point is that we shouldn’t wait to be deprived of something or for something to be threatened before we value it and make the most of it.

Our lives are so precious, let’s make the most of every day we have.

I think of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (see page 4), who died on Rosh Hashanah, and really made the most of her wonderful life. She never seemed to let an opportunity to do something positive pass her by. She also refused to let anyone stop her from doing the right thing.

Even though her latter years brought numerous bouts of cancer, she didn’t allow that to slow her down. She just kept fighting for people’s legitimate rights.

The truth is, we don’t get to decide when our time is up, but we do get to choose what to do with the time we have. Let’s make a positive difference. Are you with me?

Shabbat Shalom and G’mar Chatima Tova!

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