Cantor Kalman Socolof

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A Message from Cantor Socolof

Not long ago, I was talking with a woman I know. She told me that she had wanted to be a nurse since the age of three. Due to various circumstances, largely concerning job availability and loan forgiveness, she went into teaching. She retired after 31 years in the classroom, and in the 15 years since has worked to train nascent teachers. She said, “I still would like to be a nurse when I grow up.”

Perhaps you are familiar with a piece by Emily Perl Kingsley titled “Welcome to Holland.” Ms. Kingsley describes her reaction to learning that her child has disabilities in the context of someone who planned a trip to Italy, and finds they have, instead, arrived in Holland. She ends the piece by saying, “But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.”

There is a Yiddish saying, “Man tracht, und Gott lacht” – man plans, and God laughs. Or, as John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” It is part of the human condition that we need to make adjustments to our plans and expectations. Sometimes these are relatively inconsequential. For example, you might go to a restaurant for dinner, only to find that they are closed because of a private party. While you would like to have dined there, you find somewhere else and have dinner. Sometimes they are substantial, as in the examples given above.

Some people are resilient and flexible. They are able to deal with the unforeseen, make adjustments as required, and continue along their life’s path, even if it is not the path they originally figured on taking. These folks are more likely to appreciate their journey and the people and things that they encounter along the way.

Others are not. They focus on mourning what might have been or cannot be. Because they cannot get past what they expected, they are unable to enjoy where they are.

Aside from the obvious mental health benefits of adopting a more positive outlook, there is a theological aspect to this as well. A large number of our daily activities are associated with brachot we can say to God to express our gratitude and appreciation. To say these blessings when we do not truly mean them is worse than not saying them at all. It is as if we are saying the blessings mockingly.

May we, when confronted by shifting circumstances, find the resilience and the fortitude to adapt to the changes. May we learn to focus on what is rather than what might have been. May we come to appreciate and be thankful for our blessings, not in a spirit of complacency, but in a spirit of understanding that regardless of which road we find ourselves on, we have the opportunity to make our journey a wondrous one.

Cantor Socolof