ZEH HAYOM ASAH ADONAI - NAGILAH V’NIS’M’CHAH VO - This is the day that the Eternal One has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This verse from Psalm 118 applies to most any important day in our lives. Rhonda and I included this text on the invitation to our congregation for our son Adam’s B’rit Milah in March of 1986. I referred to this verse from Psalms in the eulogy for my mother in May of 2006 to characterize how she approached her life, treating every day as an opportunity to do something special for and make an impact on her community.
Rhonda and I witnessed yet another “ZEH HAYOM” event on June 8 at the B’rit Milah of Joshua Moise Karol. It was important that this tradition continued for yet another generation of our family. What was also special was that some of the friends and family gathered for this ceremony at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York City had also been present at past simchahs for Juli and for Adam. A photo was taken on June 8 that was similar to one from the wedding weekend in February, 2015 of six of us: Rhonda and me, Adam and Juli, and Juli’s parents, Steve and Nancie Schnur. This new picture, however, included one more person who is just beginning his life’s journey. We hope to see this “young man” grow not only in texted photos and on FaceTime but also in person as much as possible.
Recently, while working on a project of locating all of our personal documentation for the renewal of our New Mexico driver’s licenses later this year, Rhonda and I had an opportunity to rediscover and explore the necessary materials stored in their appropriate envelopes. Not only was there my birth certificate from the State of Missouri, but there was also the Jewish certificate related to my 8th-day ceremony. My bar mitzvah certificate (from 50 years ago) and Rhonda’s Confirmation certificate from 1970 are still there. We found our Ohio marriage license from 1982. Its Jewish counterpart is on our wall, our wedding Ketubah crafted by Dayton, Ohio friend and artist Joan Marcus.
Documents - both Jewish and secular - and photographs chronicle our lives. They illustrate the stories we tell about our own beginnings and upbringing. Sometimes the documents take on an unusual form. One day when I was visiting my dad’s brother, Harry, he began talking about family history. I began writing notes on store receipts that I happened to have in my wallet. I found those notes again in the last few days. They recorded stories that my uncle told me that day that I have shared with some of my cousins, including an account of how our ancestors helped one another find their way to America.
Knowledge of my family history also enabled me to recognize the name of a “real relative” who was identified as one of my “DNA relatives” on a well-known ancestry website (his great-grandmother and my Dad’s mother were sisters). I wrote him a note to make the connection. He said of our common ancestors in his response: “I hear they were both very strong women!”
In just one sentence, a story was told. An aspect of character was memorialized, one that confirmed what I had heard as well. Whenever we share these impressions, anecdotes and stories, the past comes alive (whether in families or in congregations) and is preserved so that new tales can be told in the years to come.
As Rhonda and I each held our new grandson, we had a chance to look him in the eyes and to see him gaze right back. Perhaps what he sees in our eyes will be something he will articulate later in his life. What we saw in his eyes was all that he represents: a tribute to the past with his arrival, a source of joy for the present, and beacon of hope for the future. We wish for him and his parents- as we wish for everyone of any age - many days on which to say, “This is the day that the Eternal One has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”