On Turning 40-Something

When are you old? I remember being a kid in Shul and seeing some of the “old people” in the Shul with white hair and thinking, wow, those people are old. Then, as I grew up a bit, and looked at those same people from the vantage point  of a 30-something-year-old, and thinking wow, those people are really old. Realizing, that when I thought they were old as a child, they may have looked old to me, but they were clearly not that old. Which exacerbates my question?

When are you old?

So when do you get old? When your hair starts or turns white? Uh oh, in that case I am in trouble. That started a few years ago and has only picked up speed. My children will often point out more whites on my head or beard, or comment as I krechtz (groan), when I will get up after sitting in the same position for a while, that, oh man, you are really old.

Now, I know that I am not old. Based on average life expectancy, I am barely middle aged. So what does it mean to be old? Are you old when you slow down in certain areas? Are you old when you can no longer run those 4 miles in under 10 minutes a mile? Are you older when your body starts getting older? Or is there more to the the term “old” than the bodily experience?

If I have good genes, and my hair stays jet black until I am 70, and I am in good physical health and I can run marathons in my 80’s, does that mean I am forever young?

My step mother often says a good line. What is the opposite of old? And everyone answers, young! Then she carefully corrects them and says, nope. The opposite of old is new.

That my friends is the answer!

You are old when you stop becoming new. When you stop being creative, stop being open to new ideas and things. When you will no longer exit your comfort zone to grow as a person, thinker, doer etc. When you are no longer willing to be new at something, introduce something new into your life, then you become old.

There are some very biologically old people who I know who are still reinventing themselves and in this way, they are still young and energetic, full of life and vigor.

On the flip side, there are many younger people who have stopped growing. They are completely at peace with where they are at. Financially, socially, spiritually and behaviorally. They do seem to be at ease. Free of worry and angst. They don’t fret, as they are in a state of tranquility, but still, they are old. They may be young in their years, and young in their body, but they are old in their being, as they refuse to be new.

So, as I continue deeper into my 40’s and more whites start appearing, I still sweat the small stuff, I still spend too much time worrying about things that I know at this point I have no power to control. I am frustrated that at this point in my life I am still not mature enough to have surpassed many of these things. However, there is one thing I do know for sure, I am not old. I am still trying new things. I am not sitting and calmly smoking a pipe on my rocking chair. There too many more mountains to conquer, to many new things I need to do or at least try.

So, no matter my age, I am definitely still not old.

L’chayim to never being old.

Blog 25/52 – Picture Credits – Clip art

No one said life was going to be easy. A Purim Soliloquy

I was chatting with a family member, who was venting about some of the burdens of their life. Nothing earth shattering, but enough sleep deprivation, cranky kids, and a tight budget were enough that they were on edge.

I did my empathic listening, and mirroring, and tried to just be a friend in a time of their need when I realized that they, myself, and really many (all?) of us have this incorrect perception that if fixed, really solves a lot of problems.

Why are we kvetching? No one said life was going to be easy!

There is a notion out there, pushed unintentionally by millennial’s, but in some senses believed by all, that we are entitled to, and can expect that life will be good and easy. Then when life does not turn out that way, in fact, we are disappointed and let down.

I turned to that family member and said, we are under this misperception that life is supposed to be easier. Who said so? Perhaps life is supposed to be difficult? Or at least the notion that it shouldn’t be as difficult as it is, at times, is just false?

With Purim just around the bend (easily my favorite holiday), we find a parallel and a very clear life lesson, I believe.

To sum up the story of Purim, as the old jokesters like to say, they tried to kill us, Esther saved us, lets eat, and drink and be merry. So merry, in fact, that the Code of Jewish Law instructs us to imbibe to the point that we cannot distinguish between blessed Mordechai and cursed is Haman.

Wow, that has got to be the greatest of miracles, and happiest of occasions, for the law to instruct us to celebrate and tell how hard to pound back the drinks!

Yet, if you look at the story, after the dust settles, and the genocidal pogrom is averted, things are not all that pretty in Shushan. 

Esther is still in a loveless marriage, married to the ogre Achashveirosh, the Jews are still under his dominion. The Temple has not been rebuilt, there are no choirs of beautiful people singing into our ears as unicorns fly distributing candy to one and all.

Rain (or snow if you live near me) still falls, the sun is still hidden behind clouds at times and there are dark dreary days, and things are just not perfect?

Is this the great celebration that our sages teach us about? Is the bar for happiness so low, that not-being-killed is cause for over-the-top celebration? Shouldn’t we be celebrating all that is good (amazing) in our lives, not the lack of our being eradicated?

In fact, that Talmud tells us that Akati Avdi D’achashveirosh Anan – We were still servants to Achashveirosh, once the story was over, which is (one of the reasons) why we don’t say Hallel on this holiday.

So what gives?

My supposition. Yup, no on said life was going to be easy. In fact, often it is going to be super hard. But there is always a silver lining to find and hold onto. 

Yes, Esther’s life was still pretty lousy even after she saved the Jewish people, but she chose to focus on what was good in her life. Her rough circumstances enabled her to become a major player on the world scene and save her brethren. Even if she wasn’t to have the marriage to a great Torah scholar like her uncle Mordechai, with a bunch of little cute chassidic kids singing Shabbat songs at her table on friday nights.

We too must find a way to find that silver lining in our lives. Or as that relative who I was chatting with said to me.

Thank Gd I have a great marriage. It’s because I have such a great partner, that I can get through my tough child rearing challenges. I add, perhaps, be thankful that you have children. Many others don’t have even that, as much as they pine for children. 

Here is the bottom line. No one ever promised us an easy life. All that we are told, is that if you have a win, no matter how large or small, it is a cause for a celebration. It’s worthy of writing a Megilla about it, and being grateful and merry.

Even if after the dust settles, there is still pain and suffering in imperfection in your life. There is always a silver lining to hold onto, to make things a bit more manageable.

Esther teaches us many lessons. Perhaps the greatest of which is to focus on what is right in your life, not what isn’t!

It will make you a lot happier with your lot.  

Blog 24/52

My Day At Driver Rehabilitation School

Ok, lets face it. We all mess around a bit behind the wheel, unless you are like my grandmother (who never actually did drive). Some people occasionally will text (Oy) others will go a teeny bit over the speed limit, and others may forget to get their inspection sticker done in the requisite time.

It is shameful indeed. But here here is the worst of it, Rabbi’s too are guilty of this, at least this rabbi is. Well, it finally came time to pay the piper. Thus I found myself in class at the Massachusetts Driver Retraining Course earlier this week.

In fairness, I did learn a lot that day. Most driving related, (but since I am prohibited by law to share any actual course material) I will share some of my own driving reflections and some of the other funnies that comprised my day.

For starters, the eclectic makeup of the group is a story unto itself. (I’ll get back to that in a moment.) When asked to share what brought you here today, the answer ranged from expired inspection stickers, and speeding tickets, to too many insurance surcharges which is what brought me in.

The winning answers however were for sure the gal who admitted that she had hit a parked car on the street and saw no one so she drove home, only to find out that the car she hit was her neighbors’. Or the guy that had not had his license since 2007, and was involved in high speed chases (plural) to avoid getting arrested. He failed. He was arrested.

There was a break out session, where we had to split into groups to problem solve, and I learned that I could be as intersectional as the next. Our group consisted of a bearded yalmukah’d rabbi, and golden chain wearing gang banger, to a very pierced up young woman, and not so well dressed, and very tattooed mechanic. We passed our little test with flying colors.


The teacher was pleasant and focused but she was all business. She threatened that if you are even one minute late to class, after a recess or lunch break, you will not be allowed back in, or if she couldn’t see your eyeballs – you dozed off – that you’d get an automatic fail, and have to retake the class.

Well, she was true to her word. There are two folks who will be redoing this class for one of each said offenses.

Lesson: Rules are rules.


Being the diligent student that I am, I of course had pencil in hand ready for important notes to be taken. Invariably I found myself writing some of the funnies as well. Some comments included the following.

“I drive really good drunk.”

“I haven’t been in prison in over ten years.”

“I don’t get tickets, my problem is driving on a suspended license.”


On a more serious note, since the above funnies, are really not very funny. Peoples lives are at stake. The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that whatever situation we are in there is a lesson to be learned (and shared), so here are a handful of what I will call fun facts, though they are more like real truths.

The Left lane is ticket lane.
If you don’t submit to a breathalyzer you lose your license for 180 days.
Just because you get there first, doesn’t mean you get to go first.
Saying the name “Nechemia” correctly is not possible for people without a Semitic background.
The aggressive move is a ticket-able offense.
The only one who can control your behavior behind wheel is YOU!
Slow down, no emergency will be resolved if you are dead.
Better late alive than dead on time.

In closing, while driver rehabilitation school was not what I had in mind for the day, every one occasionally needs a “wake up call” and this was one for me.

It was educational and informative, but most importantly, to taught me, to quote the instructor, “Slow down Rabbi, and put your phone down, the world needs you and your sermons.” (That’s a direct quote – I didn’t add anything of my own in that quote :-))

SLOW DOWN AND PUT DOWN THE PHONE! (I am talking to myself, and anyone else who wants to listen in.)

Blog 23/52 Photo Credit My Iphone X