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You are here: about - Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message - 19 February 2010/5 Adar 5770

Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message

Erev Shabbat, 5th Adar 5770
19 February, 2010
Dear Community,
I had the best of reasons to recall our honeymoon nineteen years ago. After being married at the New London Synagogue and celebrating with our family and community at the New North London, Nicky and I took the night train to Scotland, just for a couple of days, so that we would be home in time to celebrate Sheva Berachot. I can remember getting off the train at Pitlochry just after 6.00 in the morning into a world of snow. As we walked at first light through a path along a small valley there ahead of us was a deer. I remember how we trekked the next day through Glen Tilt and at dusk as we returned there were hares running on the hillside. It remains the only time I have ever seen them.
Last Sunday night, after a weekend with Glasgow Masorti and Limmud Scotland, I met up with Nicky and the children just a little further north, at Blair Atholl. The five of us walked each day along the rivers and among the frozen, sunlit mountains, our chance of seeing hares somewhat diminished by the eager presence of Mitzpah the dog, barking his way ahead.
It was beautiful. Icicles hung above the gorge at Killiekrankie. There were snowdrops and yellow aconites in the field behind the cottage where we stayed. When we climbed up towards Ben Vrackie the sight of the white mountaintops lifted the heart as if up there in the heights a different gravity of wonder and exaltation reigned. Wherever sufficient snow remained, the children turned their anoraks into toboggans and slid down the slopes. (It had been minus seventeen a week or two earlier; luckily it was now only three or four below.)
There is a time for anguish and a time for being grateful. I feel most grateful now. How could I know that I would have the privilege of returning one day with Nicky and three children and that we would share this wonder of being alive with the same love of the elements, the same eager eye for the tracks of animals (‘Look; I think that must be the paw print of a red squirrel!) and the same bad jokes (‘Speak for yourself’, I hear the others say.)
When I was in my teens and early twenties I used to find lots of reasons for saying ‘no’. I’ve learnt better now. I’ve understood how much it matters to have lots of reasons for saying ‘yes’. It squanders life if there is something good we can do for others but we fail to do so; it’s a waste if there’s an honest, harmless way, we can deepen our joy in the world, but we don’t do so. I know enough from my life as a rabbi to understand that one can take nothing for granted, not even for a single day or hour.
Therefore, thank you for the gift of life: ‘Blessed be God, day by day’.
Shabbat Shalom
Jonathan Wittenberg