A moment. Forever.
All special things, even eternal ones, happen in a moment. Most moments in our lives are fleeting, easily forgotten or never remembered in the first place. But magical moments – of love or loss, of joy or pain, of a secret revealed – live on.
It may take many moments, many years, even eons, to reach that one special moment. But the moment is still but a moment. And when it happens, you never forget it. The moment becomes a permanent part of you. Hopefully you hold on to it, but even when you don't, it always remain etched in your being, waiting to be retrieved, in moment's notice.
Etched in my mind forever is a single moment, which happened one year ago today, at precisely 5:17PM. Sunday, Iyar 20th (corresponding to May 29th).
I saw a life -- a life that shaped me -- end one leg of its journey, only to begin another leg. My limited perception, one that I share with many, could only see the first stage. One moment I saw my father's soul manifest in his body. The next I did not.
What happened at 5:17Pm? I really don't know. A soul that was just with us was no longer there. I tried hard looking. G-d did I try. But once the curtain closes, as much as we try, our eyes cannot see beyond.
One moment –- alive, vibrant, electric; a personality that touched and changed many lives. The next moment –- gone.
5:17PM the life force of my father -- otherwise known as the soul -- left us.
Or did it?
Does a soul live on in our lives, in our memories? Does the soul continue to thrive through the inspiration and words it leaves us, especially one who left mountains of writings?
One of the first memories I have of my father is holding his hand walking up Nostrand Avenue on Shabbat morning on our way to Shul. I always felt comfortable around him. Always. Now I know why. It was because he always felt comfortable with himself. When you are at peace with yourself, you are at peace with everyone around you (even if you may radically disagree with another) and you comfort them in the process. When my father would speak about his father (my namesake), I now understand where my father derived his personality.
Ahh... healthy people. Complex, but smooth and seamless.
When my children were young, I would clutch their little hands as we walked, as my father did mine. I must confess that today I sometimes try to briefly hold the hand of my 22-year-old son, to his chagrin and embarrassment. Little does he know that I do it not for him but for me. It's recreating my connection to my childhood, to my father.
The door of truth between the two worlds opens twice in our lives. Once in the beginning, once at the end.
Upon birth a channel opens, delivering a gift to this world: A newborn child. Where did the soul originate, where did this new life suddenly appear from? We cannot see. All we witness is the door opening.
Then, upon death (or better put: when the soul separates from the body) the door opens for the second time, returning the gift to its original place? What is that place like? I guess only souls know. And only when we become soulful can we know.
What wise words King Solomon wrote: “The living shall take to heart.” Take to heart not just the grief and sadness over loss -– do we need the wise Solomon to tell us that our hearts cry when we lose a loved one? We take to heart and remember even after the door closes. Remember that we have limited perception. Even when we can't see behind the door, never feel or think, even for one brief moment, that nothing is happening on the other side.
Take to heart…
In the second year [of the Exodus], on the 20th of the second month [Iyar], the cloud rose from the Tabernacle of Testimony. The Israelites thus began their travels... (Numbers 10:11)
5:17PM on the 20th of Iyar a cloud rose and returned to Heaven. A brief second became eternal.